MANILA, Philippines – Fearing a crackdown on teachers' rights, public school teachers held a protest on Monday, January 7, urging the Department of Education (DepEd) to take action against police efforts to identify those aligned with the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).
Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) president Solita Daz said recent moves of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which sought to list teachers part of the leftist group, have stirred fear among many.
As they chanted before the gates of the DepEd's Manila office, teachers asked officials: "Nag-isip ba kayo na ito ay magdudulot ng napakalaking takot?" (Did it occur to you that this could cause widespread fear?)
They were referring to a Manila Police District intelligence memorandum ordering cops to "conduct an inventory" of all educators who are ACT members.
The same memorandum was also used for a DepEd Manila order where schools heads were notified of the police's order for "appropriate action."
Representatives of MPSTA and ACT questioned moves of the DepEd and the PNP, saying these do not benefit or aid in the delivery of education. They also sought to remind education and police officials that ACT's advocacies are legitimate.
"We're teachers, not terrorists…. Wala rin po kaming masamang nagawa. Alam 'nyo iyon (We haven't done anything wrong. You know that)," Daz said.
WATCH: Teachers tear up copies of DepEd Manila’s memo outside it’s office @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/8VsvLp2ROD — Sofia Tomacruz (@sofiatomacruz) January 7, 2019
Not the first time: According to Daz, police efforts to identify teachers started as early as November 2018. This, however, was the first time that the DepEd appeared to formally comply with PNP orders.
Daz said teachers in areas such as Malabon City, Navotas City, and Quezon City reported that police went as far as entering schools and barangays to secure a list of ACT members. Some schools, she said, eventually complied with the police's requests.
Daz said uniformed personnel would search for school heads and ask where ACT would hold meetings. But when asked what the information was needed for, police who were sent often said they did not know.
Teachers, however, suspect the police's actions are part of the government's crackdown on leftist organizations.
"'Yun ang problema – 'yung bulag na pagsunod. Gano'n pa man, dahil may alam pa kami, nagsasabi kami na mag-ingat kayo sa pagsasalita.... Nagkataong binibigyan nila 'yung bureaucracy ng task para sa counterinsurgency at kasama ang Department of Education doon," Daz said.
(That's the problem – blind following. Nevertheless, because we know there are efforts, we told [teachers] to be careful with what they say…. They (government) have given the bureaucracy the task of counterinsurgency and the Department of Education is part of that.)
Daz fears that because of this, affected teachers may go to work intermittently or even stop working altogether.
"It might look like overreacting, but you don't know what goes on in the head of teachers. They also watch the news, not impossible to think they will be worried they will be next," she said.
The DepEd earlier said it was unaware of the PNP's effort to profile teachers, but that it will hold a dialogue with the Department of the Interior and Local Government within the week.
Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Guillermo Eleazar said the PNP's actions are legal.
Though the order did not come from him, Eleazar said the list would not be used to harass or curtail teachers' right to organization and freedom of expression. – Rappler.com