Sir, ma’am they’re mak­ing a list and check­ing it twice

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion -

TRA­DI­TION­ALLY, by the time the long Christ­mas sea­son winds down in these tropic climes, the only lists on hand are New Year’s res­o­lu­tions that are likely to be for­got­ten be­fore the month ends.

But it seems the hol­i­day spirit – or its sin­is­ter twin – con­tin­ues to im­bue the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP), or specif­i­cally, its in­tel­li­gence arm, which has de­cided to un­der­take an “in­ven­tory” of teach­ers who be­long to or “are aligned with” the Al­liance of Con­cerned Teach­ers (ACT).

Thus far, said Ray­mond Basilio, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the 180,000-strong ACT, they have con­firmed vis­its by po­lice in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives to a num­ber of schools in Manila, Mal­abon, Navotas, and in the prov­inces of Zam­bales, Sor­so­gon, Ca­marines Sur, Cebu, and Agu­san del Sur.

In An­tipolo, po­lice agents talked to the head of the teach­ers’ fed­er­a­tion, who po­litely turned down their re­quest for in­for­ma­tion.

Most of the vis­its took place from Jan­uary 3, ac­cord­ing to Basilio, but the move was ap­par­ently planned way ear­lier.

In Manila, Chief In­spec­tor Rex­son Layug, in­tel­li­gence chief of the Manila Po­lice Dis­trict, is­sued a mem­o­ran­dum dated De­cem­ber 26 or­der­ing the in­ven­tory and cit­ing a De­cem­ber 20 memo from the RID/R2, or the Re­gional In­tel­li­gence Divi­sion, which, log­i­cally, would have re­layed the orig­i­nal or­der from the Direc­torate for In­tel­li­gence dated De­cem­ber 10. Strangely – and omi­nously – the Layug memo ref­er­ences the “Mid Term Elec­tion” 2019 with­out ex­plain­ing why.

A sim­i­lar memo was is­sued by the chief of in­tel­li­gence of the Zam­bales po­lice.

The funny thing is that the in­ven­tory ap­pears to be so top se­cret that rank­ing PNP of­fi­cials said they knew noth­ing about it.

Worse, at least for the teach­ers in Manila, the agency sup­posed to look out for their in­ter­ests, the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, went along with this ap­par­ent vi­o­la­tion both of their rights and the law.

On Jan­uary 4, Sh­eryll Gay­ola, the as­sis­tant schools divi­sion su­per­in­ten­dent for Manila, and act­ing as of­fi­cer-in-charge as Su­per­in­ten­dent Je­ni­lyn Rose Cor­puz were on leave. They or­dered the school prin­ci­pals in the cap­i­tal city to take “ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion” on Layug’s mem­o­ran­dum.

Un­der­stand­ably, the Manila Pub­lic School Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, on the same day, de­manded the re­vo­ca­tion of Gay­ola’s or­der, blast­ing the “com­plic­ity” in “state­per­pe­trated ha­rass­ment, in­tim­i­da­tion, and re­pres­sion” of ACT mem­bers.

ACT also warned that ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials who went along with the po­lice in­ven­tory could leave them­selves open to crim­i­nal and civil suits.

As of Sun­day, Jan­uary 6, we learned that the Cor­puz had or­dered the re­call of Gay­ola’s memo.

It is easy enough to act smug and say there is noth­ing wrong with the in­ven­tory. “If you have done noth­ing wrong, what is there to fear,” is of­ten the face­tious ri­poste to any ap­pre­hen­sion.

The thing is, not only is pri­vacy a con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed right, we also now have Repub­lic Act 10173, or the Data Pri­vacy Act, which man­dates that one’s per­sonal data should never be col­lected, pro­cessed, and stored by any or­ga­ni­za­tion with­out your ex­plicit con­sent, un­less other­wise pro­vided by law and that, in the event it is, one has the right to be in­formed that per­sonal data will be, are be­ing, or were, col­lected and pro­cessed.

In this case, ACT’s Basilio said the teach­ers were never in­formed be­fore­hand.

ACT’s worry over the po­lice in­ven­tory stems not only from the ap­par­ent il­le­gal­ity of it all but also, and per­haps even more so, from Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s re­cent threats to crush not just the com­mu­nist rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment but also the per­fectly le­gal groups that the gov­ern­ment and its armed forces openly ac­cuse, sans any proof to speak of, of be­ing rebel “front or­ga­ni­za­tions.”

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