By Raymund Antonio
The Philippine National Police may claim that there is nothing illegal to profile the teacher members of the progressive group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), but a law expert thinks otherwise.
Lawyer and former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said the police order to conduct an inventory of all public and private teachers who belong to ACT “violates constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of association, expression, and assembly.”
“It is a clear case of profiling and intimidation,” Hilbay, who is also an opposition senatorial candidate, said, referring to the supposed PNP memorandum calling for the inventory of all educators aligned with ACT.
The move of the police to profile teachers came after the alleged “Red October” surveillance of both police and the military to monitor schools whose students they suspected of being recruited to rebel groups.
Police claimed the order was based on previous memos from its intelligence offices and for the upcoming midterm elections in May.
But Hilbay said the PNP knows its actions were “unreasonable” and did not serve a “legitimate government interest.”
“The timing can’t be more convenient – the 2019 elections will happen in a few months, and this is a show of force to intimidate education workers who risk their lives to ensure the integrity of the electoral process,” he said.
The 44-year-old lawyer noted that ACT is a legitimate organization of educators, telling the PNP to keep its hands off the teachers.
ACT occupies a seat in Congress through ACT Teachers Partylist, which represents teachers and education sector workers.
“Our allied teachers are not the enemies of democracy – politicians who corrupt our systems are,” Hilbay said.
A known critic of President Duterte’s policies, he considers the profiling of teachers, who are part of ACT, a threat to demoracy.
“If we know anything about this administration, it is that this is another move to threaten our democracy, crackdown on dissent, and undermine the will of the people,” he said.