Karapatan: DepEd memo to profile ACT members an instigation of tokhang vs teachers

Human rights alliance Karapatan raised concerns on Tuesday regarding the Department of Education’s (DepEd) internal memorandum requesting a list of teachers affiliated with the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the largest non-traditional teachers’ organization in the Philippines, as the group warned that such moves “strongly endanger the lives and safety of teachers as well as their right to organize and form unions.”

“Vice President Sara Duterte has repeatedly targeted ACT in her rabid red-tagging tirades, and this new memo requesting a list of ACT-affiliated teachers can only be seen as the latest in her insidious schemes. Under the murderous regime, we have seen how such lists have been used as hitlists. This is an instigation of tokhang against teachers, and it should be strongly denounced,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

The internal memorandum dated June 14, 2023 and issued by Atty. Revsee Escobedo, DepEd Undersecretary for Operations, requested all regional directors and school division superintendents for a list of teachers affiliated with ACT who are availing of the Automatic Payroll Deduction System.

While similar memoranda have been supposedly issued for teachers affiliated with other unions, Palabay asserted, however, that this is not the first time that government agencies have tried to profile teachers affiliated with ACT.

In December 2018, leaked internal memoranda from various local police branches instructed intelligence units to conduct an “inventory” of ACT-affiliated teachers. Meanwhile, in March 2021, a letter from the Department of the Interior and Local Government instructed its regional directors to “investigate” and list down members of ACT for their supposed “infiltration” of several government agencies; the same letter red-tagged the teachers’ union as a “front organization” of “communist-terrorist groups.”

“It is undeniable that this latest memo from DepEd is part of a long trend of similar attacks against ACT, and such moves — with their intent to profile ACT’s members — not only violate rights to privacy and security as well as teachers’ basic right to organize and unionize: they also put teachers at the crosshairs of state harassment, repression, and violence,” the Karapatan official continued.

“DepEd should stop acting like a footstool of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and its deranged campaign of red-tagging and state fascism, and Sara Duterte should step down from her post as DepEd secretary. Clearly, she is not keen on addressing the country’s education crisis and is instead weaponizing the department for her sinister militarist agenda,” she ended. #