Cops aren’t afraid of harassing teachers. Here’s why
A culture with low regard for educators is a plus for “red-baiting” surveillance officers
Jan 9, 2019
Call it another case where members of the police intelligence unit’s work style failed to match the job description.
Manila policemen wearing civilian clothes reportedly did the rounds of at least six public elementary and high schools last week, brandishing copies of a memorandum ordering them to “conduct an inventory of all public and private school teachers who are members aligned with the” progressive Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).
Trouble is, cops supposedly doing this sort of intelligence work have to do so “discreetly,” as Philippine National Police director general Oscar Albayalde would have it.
Openly asking school officials to fill out “survey forms” listing down the names of ACT members among the faculty not only reeks of stupidity. Albayalde admitted the cops created “unnecessary panic.”
“Maybe they don’t know what the job of an intelligence officer is,” he surmised.
The same modus of openly asking for information about ACT-allied teachers was also witnessed among cops in Quezon City and Zambales. So far, three intelligence officers from these three areas who obeyed the memo penned by Chief Insp. Rexson Layug have been relieved.
As expected, ACT officers and their sympathizers were immediately up in arms. Terms like “harassment,” “red-baiting,” and “discrimination” were used to decry the police activity.
The teachers’ right to free assembly, privacy, and association were also invoked.
Because the phrase “midterm elections of 2019” appeared in Layug’s memo, insinuations about the new party-list group ACT-CIS led by its nominee Erwin Tulfo have also surfaced. This after observers noted that Tulfo is a staunch supporter of President Duterte. (ACT is currently represented in Congress by party-list solon Antonio Tinio.)
ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said intelligence cops are now apparently trying to “justify and normalize surveillance.” If true, this kind of activity is not something new.
During martial law under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, teachers AND students were regularly watched by the police and military. (Old-timers will also remember how Marcos consistently used the blanket term “communist” to tag anyone—student, civilian worker, journalist, senator, et al—perceived as a threat.)
And while presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo denies Malacañang’s hand in Layug’s memo, doesn’t the obvious crudeness and nonchalance in the way the cops conducted their intelligence activities remind us of the conduct of anti-drug operations against those suspected of selling or using illegal drugs?
Panelo would have a hard time downplaying suspicions there is no policy of putting teachers under surveillance for possible links with communist rebels. Has not the President himself exhibited contempt toward the Left?
Besides, we have a chief executive who enjoys degrading persons and groups that he sees as threats. Putting ACT members in a box shaped in the image of an enemy would make it easy for the rest to perceive them as such, wouldn’t it?
Teachers are actually an easy target because the culture is not supportive of educators. We exhibit higher regard for celebrities than those who spent ten months of the year teaching us inside the classroom.
We have teachers forced to seek employment abroad as nannies because Congress cannot be bothered to regularly increase their annual pay, allowances, and various benefits as befits their status in society.
They continue to be the butt of longganisa-for-sale jokes in their attempts to stay clean as they augment the family income.
And even when the law forces them into that thankless role of tallying the votes every election season, the monetary allowance they receive for the effort is never commensurate to the dangers they face as poll officers.
Maybe lawmakers ought to remember that the humble public school teacher will play a significant role in their victory or loss in the elections four months from now.
Various PNP officers have already gone to media to downplay the operation against ACT members. But has anyone really explained credibly why the effort was made in the first place? Was that not a curious thing?
Albayalde himself used the word “scary” in denouncing the work of his subordinates. We maintain that the lack of finesse exhibited by the cops in civvies was disturbing. They were obviously confident somebody got their back.
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