President Rodrigo Duterte’s legal adviser, Salvador Panelo, charged the 180,000-strong Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) of “paranoia” following the exposé of a Philippine National Police (PNP) intelligence program aimed at an “inventory” of the militant union’s nationwide membership.
Panelo trotted out the trite line, that the innocent have no cause to fear.
He then promptly undermined that argument, claiming the teachers’ alliance “has been identified as legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Any surveillance, he added, must have “a good excuse.”
Paranoia is defined as an irrational fear, borne of delusions. In the two years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s mailed-fist rule, lists compiled by the PNP have proved dangerous to people’s lives.
The intelligence effort against militant teachers involves the same shotgun approach as “Tokhang,” the fulcrum of a mad war that has taken thousands of lives of poor Filipinos in the name of law and order.
Tokhang has won infamy worldwide. It starts with a list, an inventory, of alleged drug addicts and pushers in communities. That amorphous list led to cops knocking on the doors of suspects, with a barely veiled offer to surrender or else.
The subjects were given no chance at defending themselves. In time, many were killed – 5,000 in police operations, more than double that number under conditions similar to that of state-sponsored vigilante operations.
Then there is Duterte, who has publicly vowed to crush Asia’s longest-running insurgency, with equal vitriol reserved for legal activist organizations.
Duterte has even referenced Indonesia’s Soeharto, who presided over a bloodbath of guerrillas and legal leftist activists in the mid-1960s.
Duterte also loves citing his lists -- shot full of intelligence black holes. Many of the personages he has mentioned as part of that drug-lord list have been killed. He has promoted and promised protection for some police officers implicated in these murders.
Under these circumstances, the ACT has every right to be alarmed. In fact, even retired officers living quiet lives were arrested recently. Two teachers in Mindanao are in jail. Many others, including those helping indigenous schools, are hounded and harassed at every turn.
The PNP’s efforts to control the fallout of the leaked intel operations fails to improve its level of trust.
PNP Director-General Oscar Albayalde on Monday (December 7) relieved three senior police intelligence officers: one from the Zambales provincial command, the other two from the Manila and Quezon City police districts.
He did not mention the names but it seems most likely they are the officers mentioned in the story I broke over the weekend.
Albayalde’s order had nothing to do with the wrongness of the operation.
In his own words, it was because the operation “leaked”, an event that, he said, created “unnecessary panic”.
Albayalde echoed the claim of National Capital Region Police Command head, Chief Sup. Guillermo Eleazar, and Manila police district head, Supt. Vicenta Dupa Danao, Jr., who both denied issuing any order to get an “inventory” of members and allies of the ACT.
The intelligence officers’ memo cited the regional police intelligence offices. In addition, the Zambales memo also cited a December 10, 2018 order from the national directorate for intelligence.
Aside from the improbability of the directorate of intelligence launching a major operation without clearance from Albayalde, the Monday morning quarterback efforts raise even more questions than answers.
Neither Albayalde nor Eleazar categorically denied the operation. In fact, both justified the exercise which, in at least one Malabon school, even sought the addresses of ACT members.
Albayalde said it was standard intelligence work, also involving other sectors.
However angle you look at it, a nationwide operation to compile a list of members of a national legal organization, cannot be called “standard”.
Other reports have the more personable Eleazar trying to dodge the issue, with the euphemism “reference use”, ostensibly for when the PNP needs to forge some connections with the militant organization.
You feel a bit for Eleazar, who is known for undertaking efforts to coordinate with activist groups before major protests.
Of all people, he would now that it takes one or a few phone calls to “connect” with leaders of these organizations. It does not need compiling a list of members of ACT, the accredited, recognized union and bargaining unit of teachers in the national capital region and regions 5, 6, 7 and 11. The ACT already engages regularly with Civil Service Commission, the Department of Education, and Department of Labor and Employment.
Why would networking require the addresses of ACT members?
The truth is, the Duterte government is hewing to the old Marcos-style witch hunt and former President Gloria Arroyo’s bloody attacks on the left, which centered more on personalities in the legal mass movement than the guerrilla underground. Many of the top national security advisers of now Speaker Arroyo are working for Duterte.
Albayalde -- he of the fantastical Red October tales -- is simply telling cops: do your dirty work in secret. Straight from the Tokhang playbook.
It is not ACT that is paranoid. It is the government seeking to evade accountability for the bloodbath of the last two years.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.