By Chito Chavez
Militant teacher’s group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said it was the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) which have the political agenda in insisting that the raps filed by the organization against the two agencies were legitimate.
The group issued the pronouncement after the DILG accused ACT of filing the charges simply to “gather sympathy votes’’ for the incoming May 2019 mid-term elections.
Joselyn Martinez ACT Philippines chairperson said that it was the “DILG which was guilty of electioneering as leaked memoranda of the Philippine National Police (PNP) clearly stated the 2019 mid-term elections as a reference for the profiling project against ACT members’’.
“Binabaligtad pa kami ng DILG ngayon (The DILG is the one turning the tables on us with their accusations). It is them who directly connected their move to surveil teachers to the upcoming elections and until now they have not explained this suspect information contained in the PNP memo,” said Martinez.
Martinez said the cases that ACT filed against PNP and DILG high officials intend to protect the teachers from the surveillance and harassment activities of the state forces against their members, which she said ‘has not stopped until today and is actually worsening.’
“They are not only getting the names of our members now. We have obtained evidences of the person-specific and intensive surveillance operations being carried out against our members in Pangasinan while some of our leaders are getting death threats from unscrupulous state agents. We have come to the courts to defend and protect our ranks,” explained Martinez.
Martinez countered DILG’s claim that charges against the agency and the police were baseless, saying that “the profiling operations have terrorized our unarmed teachers and have grossly violated our rights to free speech, association and privacy’’.
“It is their surveillance move that is baseless. They justify it as a ‘logical reaction’ to the charges of a president who has a habit of telling lies and a video they deliberately misinterpreted,” she added.
The PNP earlier said that the profiling operations against ACT members was spurred by President Duterte’s accusation that ACT was a legal front of the communists and a 1987 video of Prof. Jose Maria Sison, where he, in fact, did not connect but differentiated the armed revolutionary movement from the legal and progressive organizations.
“The DILG and PNP officials will have their day in court and they better be prepared to explain the connection of the upcoming elections to their surveillance operations against teacher-unionists who only uphold their labor rights while sacrificing daily to educate our youth and putting themselves in line of fire every election period,” concluded Martinez.
In response to the ACT charges, the DILG insisted the points raised on the complaint were misplaced reliance on constitutional and statutory protections which the “Supreme Court had upheld time and again’’.
The DILG insisted that there was no police crackdown on ACT members as the complaint filed against them before the Office of the Ombudsman has no evidence to support the group’s accusations.
“This Ombudsman case is simply an attempt to earn precious media mileage before the May elections. We are dismayed that ACT has chosen to politicize this issue to increase name recall,’’ the DILG statement read.
In the same statement, the DILG and the PNP reiterated their stand that intelligence-gathering is part and parcel of effective law enforcement.
If this was not enforced, the PNP will be remiss in its job if it lets the revelation of CPP founder Joma Sison — that ACT is among the CPP-NPA-NDF’s communist fronts — pass.
Undaunted by the charges, the PNP vowed to “ continue to perform its task of protecting the right to life, liberty, and property of the people while making sure that legitimate dissent, done within the bounds of law, is respected,’’.