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DepEd: Gathering information about membership of teachers’ groups not a form of harassment

The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday justified its move to collect data on the membership of two teachers’ organizations, saying it is legal and necessary for any negotiations with the agency.

At a Palace news conference, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said organizations that deal with the DepEd must comply with the requirements, including the submission of names of officers and members.

She said other organizations composed of non-teaching personnel also submitted the list of their officers and members.

“Furthermore, these organizations collect membership fees which we collect for these particular organizations. So we have to know the names of the members in order for us to deduct membership fees [from their salaries],” Briones said.

Briones was reacting to criticisms from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), which both questioned the directive for local DepEd officials to make an inventory of these organizations.

According to the ACT, the DepEd’s move was “in bad faith” as the agency allegedly continued to ignore ACT's requests for dialogues despite being an accredited union in 12 regions and the sole and exclusive negotiating agent in the other five.

The TDC leadership had instructed its members not to participate in the survey, which “may be deemed at the very least a simple discourtesy and at the far extreme, a form of harassment.”

Asked if the profiling would lead to harassment of teachers, Briones replied, “We don’t harass. Any action that we have undertaken is always covered by law. We are a government of laws.”

“I am the one who feels harassed because I’m told to go to hell, I’m told that I am a whore, and I’m told that some groups are continually praying that I will rot in hell,” she said.

Personal data protected

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan assured the teachers that personal data would be safeguarded.

“We have a data protection officer in the Department of Education and so any disclosure or sharing of this information complies with data protection [standards]. There is no individual profiling the department is doing outside of the required submission of information,” he said.

Briones added: “We don’t discriminate and we recognize that these two organizations which have made the observations are legitimate organizations. They are not underground organizations. They are open organizations and they [should] submit the names of their members like everybody else.”

“It is standard which is expected of all those who want to be recognized,” she said. — RSJ, GMA News