Dubious and despicable: Teachers’ groups alarmed over DepEd’s ‘profiling’ of members

Published April 17, 2021, 9:50 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Two teachers’ groups on Saturday, April 17, called the attention of the Department of Education (DepEd) after they were informed by their respective members from various regions of a directive asking for membership details.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), in separate statements, urged the leadership of DepEd to “halt” the said information-gathering among their members and to explain further the objectives of the said directive.

Citing reports coming from regional leaders and members, both groups alleged that local officials of DepEd are “gathering information” on the number of their members in their respective localities.

ACT and TDC alleged that the said order came from DepEd Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo.

Dubious move

For ACT, DepEd’s recent move was in “bad faith” as the agency continues to ignore its requests for dialogues.

ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said that based on the reports it gathered from union leaders in Regions I, III, IV-A, IV-B, VI, X, and CAR, they have been asked by their division offices to provide the number of ACT members in their area.

(Screenshot courtesy of ACT Philippines)

“Since mid-2019, we’ve made several requests for dialogue with DepEd on various concerns in education and none have been approved despite our status as a duly recognized representative of public school teachers – and now this dubious move, what for? Basilio asked.

ACT noted that DepEd has “consistently and actively refused to recognize” its standing as a legitimate teachers’ union on multiple occasions – thus, it “sees no possible good reason behind the ongoing inventory” on their organization.

After the continued profiling of its members which led to “worse attacks” on its members and organization, Basilio told DepEd: “We’re understandably alarmed at your sudden interest with our members.”

Given this, ACT called on DepEd to “immediately halt their information-gathering” face the members of the group in a dialogue.

Despicable action

For TDC, such move is despicable – coming from DepEd itself.

To further clarify the said directive, TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas wrote a letter addressed to Education Secretary Leonor Briones dated April 17.

“The TDC leadership despises this action, and thus, will instruct our members not to participate in this survey/profiling/inventory which has no clear objectives and hastily done through Google Forms, text messages, Facebook messages or phone calls,” Basas said in the letter.

Basas shared that early this morning, members and officers of the TDC from several regions were instructed by their field offices to respond to a survey via internet and other platforms asking for some details of their membership.

A Google form titled, “Data on the Number of Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT-Teachers)” was also made accessible for this.

(Screenshot courtesy of ACT Philippines)

“This act of the DepEd management, which has caused alarm among our members, may be deemed at the very least a simple discourtesy and at the far extreme, a form of harassment,” Basas said.

Like ACT, Basas said that TDC has been requesting a dialogue with DepEd. “At least 10 letters of request to the Office of the Secretary since March 2020 appealing for a dialogue between the parties but none of those were granted,” Basas said.

“We will continue to hope that one day, you will consider open communication with your stakeholders, especially organized groups of teachers as a crucial factor in determining proper response to the challenges of our present situation,” Basas said in the letter.

Meanwhile, the teachers’ organizations reminded DepEd that self-organization, freedom of association, privacy, and freedom of expression are among the “rights of workers and employees enshrined in the existing laws” – thus, these “should be treated with sanctity.”

The Manila Bulletin sought confirmation and official statement from DepEd on the matter but no response has been made as of this writing.