MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Some members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), likely including "hardcore leaders," are being monitored because of the group's ties with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said Malacañang on Monday, January 7.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo recalled that it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who had ordered that "legal fronts" of the Left be targeted.
"Siguro ang nakikita ko diyan, baka 'yung mga prino-profile o mino-monitor 'yung mga nakikita ng PNP na maling ginagawa nila. Kasi tandaan 'nyo na 'yung ACT is a legal organization na identified sa kaliwa," said Panelo during a Palace news briefing.
(Probably, what I see there is, the ones being profiled or monitored are the ones the PNP has identified as doing something wrong. Remember that ACT is a legal organization identified with the Left.)
"Sinabi ng PNP at ng Presidente na may mga legal fronts, pero actually kasama sila sa kaliwa (The PNP and the President said that there are legal fronts, but they are actually with the Left)," he continued.
Though at first Panelo denied the government is monitoring teachers as a policy, he said that if "one or two" ACT members are being monitored, it's likely because they are suspected of conspiring with communist rebels to bring down the Duterte administration.
"If there are such cases, there is a reason to surveil. For example, if someone reports to you that this teacher was seen interacting with those identified NPA (New People's Army), if you are the police, won't you monitor their actions?" he said.
Asked what crime the ACT members being monitored could be plotting hence the need to keep an inventory of them, Panelo said: "What do the rebels want? To bring down the government."
ACT Teachers Representative France Castro accused the government of identifying as "Left" anyone critical of its policies and programs, adding that ACT is a legitimate group recognized by many government entities.
"ACT and ACT unions are legitimate and legal organizations with registration and recognition by the concerned agencies like DepEd (Department of Education), CSC (Civil Service Commission), DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and local governments," she said in a message to Rappler.
"The problem with the administration is if you are speaking against their policies which are anti-people you are considered as their enemies or tagged as Left or Red," she added.
Panelo, on Monday, said that ACT members not conspiring to oust Duterte need not fear the police.
"If you're not doing anything, why should you be afraid?" he said.
"The policy is not to surveil teachers, but if you are doing something irregular, it's natural for the police to monitor you," Panelo added. (READ: Teachers to PNP, DepEd: We're not terrorists)
What's being done to ACT members? PNP officials have confirmed that it is forming a list of teachers and members of ACT, a progressive group focused on education issues.
A Manila Police District intelligence memorandum, leaked to the public, ordered cops to "conduct an inventory" of all educators who are ACT members, in preparation for the 2019 midterm elections. Cops who allegedly leaked the memo have since been sacked.
ACT, in a statement, slammed the creation of the list, saying it could be used by the government to harass its members or intimidate them.
Metro Manila's top cop, National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Guillermo Eleazar, denied that the police would use the list for illegal purposes.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.