MANILA - (UPDATED) A Palace spokesman on Monday said there is nothing wrong with the Philippine National Police's reported surveillance of a left-leaning teachers' union.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said authorities will only monitor members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers who have ties with communist rebels "if they have shown any acts that will be inimical to the state."
These efforts are part of the job of the police, he told ANC.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers claimed over the weekend that police officers recently visited schools in Malabon, Cebu, Isabela and some Mindanao provinces, asking for the names of their members.
The supposed profiling is meant to stifle "all forms of opposition," claimed ACT, which last year earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, for claiming that her city does not give allowances to teachers.
"Assuming na kung mayroon nito, mayroon po bang mali sa ginagawa pagkuha ng impormasyon? Iyung pagkuha po ng impomasyon sa iba't ibang organisasyon, bahagi po ng trabaho namin iyan," said Metro Manila police chief Director Guillermo Eleazar.
"Talagang mandato po namin na alamin ang nangyayari sa ating kapaligiran para sa ating programa," he added.
(Assuming that there are indeed such moves, is there anything wrong with getting information? Gathering information on different organizations is part of our job. It's our mandate to find out what is happening around us for our programs.)
Eleazar said it's good for intelligence officers to have "many open sources" instead of just getting information on ACT from the Civil Service Commission and skipping its rounds in schools.
He also assured that the police will not abuse the information it gathered.
"Alam namin ang tama at mali at hindi kami gagawa ng mali at hindi kami magto-tolerate ng anumang mali," he told radio DZMM.
(We know what's right and wrong and we will not tolerate any wrongdoing.)
But tagging ACT, which is separate from but allied with the ACT Teachers party-list, as a front of the underground leftist rebellion is wrong, said Antonio Tinio, representative of the group to Congress.
"ACT is not in any way doing anything illegal, taking up arms. ACT is a union of public school teachers and all its activities are legal and protected by the Constitution," he told ANC's Dateline Philippines.
"Our fear is because the administration has associated our organization with the CPP-NPA, the security agencies will take that as a signal to use violence and force against our members, which has happened in the past," he said.
The intelligence gathering by the police force is a "serious threat to the ACT organization and the safety of the members," said Tinio.