“Why does the PNP keep on tracking the activities of duly-elected lawmakers, as well as teachers, of this country? Why don’t you monitor the operations of criminals, killers, drug syndicates, kidnappers and the like?” – ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressive legislator slammed the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the use of its intelligence funds to monitor the activities of elected solons and legitimate teacher organizations instead of lawless elements.
During the budget hearing of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Aug. 23, Tuesday, ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio L. Tinio questioned officials of the PNP as to how the P505.4 million ($12 million) intelligence funds are being utilized. PNP Chief Raul Bacalzo said intelligence funds are intended for lawless elements and enemies of the state.
Tinio refuted Bacalzo’s statement by citing a firsthand account in which he and other elected representatives and legitimate teacher organizations like the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA) are being subjected to PNP intelligence operations.
“Why does the PNP keep on tracking the activities of duly-elected lawmakers, as well as teachers, of this country? Why don’t you monitor the operations of criminals, killers, drug syndicates, kidnappers and the like?” Tinio asked.
On Aug. 6, Tinio said, he and other six party-list representatives of the Makabayan coalition was placed under surveillance by the PNP. In the account of ACT, a police officer who identified himself as PO3 Ruben Dipasupil of the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) of Station 2 of the Masambong Police Station came to the venue where Makabayan was having a meeting and told them he was making a “spot report” about the on going meeting.
Makabayan representatives were discussing the proposed 2012 budget in a private building in Vasra village in Quezon City when the Dipasupil came in civilian clothes and asked for the names of those present at the meeting and demanded that he be given a copy of the program of the ongoing activity. Upon questioning, Dipasupil said he was ordered by his station commander, Police Superintendent Audie L. Madrideo, to make a “spot report” on the ongoing meeting.
Meanwhile, members of the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA) were prevented by security officials from entering the premises of GSIS last Aug. 19. The QCPSTA was about to have a dialogue with GSIS officials but was prevented by the security officials from entering the premises, citing a “confidential” order.
Tinio said the memorandum issued by the PNP Intelligence Group (OMD- OMD-11-0314-045) dated March 14, 2011 with a subject “Format in Monitoring and Reporting of Mass Actions,” which sought to “monitor mass actions” of legal organizations gave basis to the monitoring of the QCPSTA as well as the meeting held by the Makabayan bloc.
“The memorandum sends a chilling effect to organizations and individuals who wish to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to organization, assembly, free expression and privacy,” said Tinio.
Tinio also added that what happened last Aug. 19 was not even a mass action but a dialogue with Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) officials. “The teachers only wanted to peaceably assemble for the redress of their grievances to GSIS,” he added.
Tinio stressed that the memorandum violated a number of existing laws such as the right to free expression, right to privacy and right to association/organization and peaceful concerted activities, stated in the Articles 3 and 13 of the Philippine Constitution, respectively.
“This highlights the fact that the Aquino administration is monitoring legal activities of legitimate organizations. In the process, marginalized sectors such as teachers are left with very little avenue for their grievances,” said Tinio.
Tinio then called for the immediate disclosure of the contents of the memorandum on the “Format in Monitoring and Reporting of Mass Actions” and demanded a stop to the surveillance operations inflicted towards him, his colleagues and legitimate teacher organizations. “We will call for a deferment of the PNP budget unless we are satisfied that these intelligence funds will not be used to violate civil liberties of citizenry.”
“Cloak of confidentiality”
Tinio also warned PNP for the perilous events brought about by the “cloak of confidentiality” given to PNP operations.
Tinio cited items under the Operations services, Police Relation Services and Investigation Services which imply that activities such as disaster preparedness and relief operations, medical-dental outreach activities and socio-cultural development, among others, are all confidential in nature.
“Up to 66 percent of the PNP budget is described as being confidential in nature. And apparently, there is a danger in giving a cloak of confidentiality to all PNP operations,” said Tinio.
House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Rep. Joseph Emilio A. Abaya then requested the PNP Chief “to submit possible errata and phrase properly” the said items in the DILG budget.
Meanwhile, Tinio said, despite the “matuwid na daan” (straight path) by President Benigno Aquino III and what the government call as respect to human rights, the undemocratic dirty tricks of his predecessor, then president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration is being continually employed by government security forces.
“We denounce this (Aug. 6 surveillance) incident as a serious violation of our right to privacy. In the first place, how did they know that we were having a meeting in that particular venue at that particular time? This clearly indicates that the police are keeping tabs of our whereabouts,” said Tinio.
“In fact, we were meeting to better enable ourselves to represent the interests of the marginalized sectors we were elected to serve during the ongoing budget deliberations in Congress. This intrusion by the police is not well taken,” he added.
Tinio raised the issue of political harassment against critics of the Aquino administration. “As a rule, does the PNP monitor the activities of duly elected representatives of the citizenry? I doubt it. Is the Aquino administration singling out legislators identified with the progressive movement as targets of police surveillance? Who else is under surveillance?”
Tinio called on Malacañang to explain the incident and to immediately put an end to any surveillance operations being conducted by the police or any other government agents on the Makabayan coalition solons.