TRADITIONALLY, by the time the long Christmas season winds down in these tropic climes, the only lists on hand are New Year’s resolutions that are likely to be forgotten before the month ends.

But it seems the holiday spirit – or its sinister twin – continues to imbue the Philippine National Police (PNP), or specifically, its intelligence arm, which has decided to undertake an “inventory” of teachers who belong to or “are aligned with” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).

Thus far, said Raymond Basilio, secretary-general of the 180,000-strong ACT, they have confirmed visits by police intelligence operatives to a number of schools in Manila, Malabon, Navotas, and in the provinces of Zambales, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Cebu, and Agusan del Sur.

In Antipolo, police agents talked to the head of the teachers’ federation, who politely turned down their request for information.

Most of the visits took place from January 3, according to Basilio, but the move was apparently planned way earlier.

In Manila, Chief Inspector Rexson Layug, intelligence chief of the Manila Police District, issued a memorandum dated December 26 ordering the inventory and citing a December 20 memo from the RID/R2, or the Regional Intelligence Division, which, logically, would have relayed the original order from the Directorate for Intelligence dated December 10. Strangely – and ominously – the Layug memo references the “Mid Term Election” 2019 without explaining why.

A similar memo was issued by the chief of intelligence of the Zambales police.

The funny thing is that the inventory appears to be so top secret that ranking PNP officials said they knew nothing about it.

Worse, at least for the teachers in Manila, the agency supposed to look out for their interests, the Department of Education, went along with this apparent violation both of their rights and the law.

On January 4, Sheryll Gayola, the assistant schools division superintendent for Manila, and acting as officer-in-charge as Superintendent Jenilyn Rose Corpuz were on leave. They ordered the school principals in the capital city to take “appropriate action” on Layug’s memorandum.

Understandably, the Manila Public School Teachers Association, on the same day, demanded the revocation of Gayola’s order, blasting the “complicity” in “state-perpetrated harassment, intimidation, and repression” of ACT members.

ACT also warned that education officials who went along with the police inventory could leave themselves open to criminal and civil suits.

As of Sunday, January 6, we learned that the Corpuz had ordered the recall of Gayola’s memo.

It is easy enough to act smug and say there is nothing wrong with the inventory. “If you have done nothing wrong, what is there to fear,” is often the facetious riposte to any apprehension.

The thing is, not only is privacy a constitutionally guaranteed right, we also now have Republic Act 10173, or the Data Privacy Act, which mandates that one’s personal data should never be collected, processed, and stored by any organization without your explicit consent, unless otherwise provided by law and that, in the event it is, one has the right to be informed that personal data will be, are being, or were, collected and processed.

In this case, ACT’s Basilio said the teachers were never informed beforehand.

ACT’s worry over the police inventory stems not only from the apparent illegality of it all but also, and perhaps even more so, from President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent threats to crush not just the communist revolutionary movement but also the perfectly legal groups that the government and its armed forces openly accuse, sans any proof to speak of, of being rebel “front organizations.”

These groups include ACT.

Given the disdain this administration has for human rights, there is enough reason to fear where this police exercise might be headed to.

To those – and their numbers remain substantial – who readily believe the canard about “front organizations” and about activists and progressives being good-for-nothings with only mayhem on their minds, do remember that many of the rights you now take for granted were fought for and won by people like them.

Besides, there is a reason why human rights are considered “universal.”

Do not, please, ever make the mistake of believing that certain classes or sectors, for one reason or another, have less claim to these rights than you. For once this thinking becomes the norm, you might just as easily find yourself on the wrong end of this equation.