Background check on ACT members is part of PNP’s task to protect the people

By Aaron Recuenco

The Philippine National Police (PNP) denied Thursday that it is red-tagging teachers when police intelligence agents were tasked to profile the members of a teacher’s group known to criticize the government.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said that the background check that was ordered on members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) is part of the intelligence-gathering amid reports that the group is a front organization of the New People’s Army (NPA).

PNP CHIEF DIR GEN. Oscar Albayalde, speaks during a press conferecne about the recently concluded Barangay and SK Election 2018, at the PNP National Election Monitoring Center (NEMAC) at Camp Crame in Quezon City, May 15 2018. According to the PNP, the election is generally peaceful. (Mark Balmores) PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN)

“It’s not red-tagging. It's not the policy of the PNP or this government to red tag anybody or any organization for that matter,” said Albayalde.

ACT is being accused by the PNP of being one of the legal fronts of the New People's Army, citing a YouTube video wherein Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison was reportedly quoted mentioning ACT as one the legal fronts of the CPP-NPA.

The PNP was bashed in the social media after an order from the PNP about profiling ACT members was leaked in some social media platforms.

Albayalde has ordered the relief of at least three intelligence unit chiefs for the leak of the order but insisted that the move was aimed at protecting the people from ACT members who are supporting armed rebellion by supporting the NPA.

On Thursday, ACT filed a petition questioning the Constitutionality of the profiling order of the PNP.

“(We) seek to declare the memoranda of the Philippine National Police giving the green light for the conduct of the profiling of ACT members and affiliates in public schools as illegal and unconstitutional for violating basic human rights on freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, to privacy and to labor,” ACT said in a statement.

“Underscoring the surreptitious conduct of the profiling and massive illegal personal information gathering, ACT members now fear for their safety and privacy-- all the more with reports of harassment and threats being inflicted upon their officers,” it added.

Albayalde said they welcome the petition filed by the ACT, saying that it is the proper way to determine whether or not the profiling order of the PNP is valid or not.

“That’s good so that we can answer it in the proper forum. I think this is a way to know the truth and what the police is really doing,” said Albayalde.

Albayalde said that they have already stopped the ‘profiling’ of ACT members.

For his part, PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Benigno Durana insisted that the PNP did not violate the Constitution and any law when its intelligence unit issued the order to conduct profiling of the members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).

“The Philippine National Police is the national police force mandated with the duty to enforce the law and maintain peace and order as a function of government,” said Durana.

Durana stressed that the PNP action to conduct background check on members of ACT is also safeguarded by the Constitution under the government’s task to protect its people from the enemies of the State.

He cited Section 5 of Article II of the Constitution: “the maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and the promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy”.

With such provision in the Constitution, Durana said that the conduct of background check on the ACT members does not violate any law.

“Gathering intelligence allows the state to distinguish genuine progressives from unrepentant communist terrorists out to overthrow a duly elected government through violent means; routinely extort, burn and loot assets of businesses that gave livelihood to peace-loving citizens of this country,” said Durana.

The pronouncement of Sison which identifies ACT as one of the alleged front organizations of the NPA also gives the PNP the strong reason to do so, according to Durana.

“The PNP recognizes ACT as a legitimate union of teachers in the Philippines established since 1982 for the purpose of protecting the rights of teachers. But they ceased to enjoy this recognition when the enemies of the state proclaimed ACT as one of their own-- as among the front organizations under its wings that work in support of the forces of the armed revolution,” said Durana.

“Because Sison himself has identified ACT as a front organization of the CPP/NPA/NDF (National Democratic Front), the burden is now upon members of ACT to dissociate themselves from this terrorist organization and denounce its infiltration, manipulation, and use of the ranks of Filipino educators,” he added.

ACT, in its petition, also cited the Data Privacy Act of 2012 in questioning the PNP profiling order on the group.

But Durana explained that such law does not apply to the PNP order, stating that the law does not apply to “information necessary in order to carry out the functions of public authority which includes the processing of personal data for the performance by the independent, central monetary authority and law enforcement and regulatory agencies of their constitutionally and statutorily mandated functions.”

The official, however, did not further elaborate, saying they would just refute all the points raised by ACT in the proper forum. (Aaron Recuenco)