(by Dang Samson Garcia)

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros warned against possible abuses from the surveillance conducted in schools, saying that the government’s primordial duty is to foster an environment of freedom and dignity for students.

“Children are never legitimate targets for spying. Hindi dapat madamay ang mga estudyante sa surveillance laban sa mga abusado at kriminal,” Hontiveros said.

The lawmaker issued the statement in response to the Department of Education’s admission that they are conducting surveillance operations in educational institutions.

“Ayon mismo kay VP Duterte noong hearing, ang target ng surveillance operation ay ‘learners, and our teaching and non-teaching DepEd personnel.’ This raises a lot of alarming questions. Sino ang mismong nangongolekta at nagko-conduct ng surveillance sa mga paaralan? May mga guro ba o principal na isasali sa surveillance activities?” Hontiveros said.

“Keeping our children safe includes keeping them away from the potential abuse associated with state surveillance. Hayaan nating matuto ang kabataan nang walang pag-aalinlangan kung sila ba ay tinitiktikan,” the chairman of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality added.

The senator called for greater transparency on the scope and extent of these surveillance operations, especially if these infringe on the special protection and rights of children.

She reiterated her call to reallocate the DepEd’s proposed confidential budget of P150 million and for the agency to focus on fulfilling its basic mandate of providing accessible, equitable and quality basic education.