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SMNI host rehashes false claim on ACT funds

Self-proclaimed former communist rebel Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz has resurfaced a baseless claim that Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) partylist Rep. France Castro has been collecting dues from public school teachers and other sectoral workers to fund operations of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Castro has responded to the same extortion allegations first made by an alleged whistleblower on the Dec. 14, 2022 broadcast of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI)’s Laban Kasama Ang Bayan, the program Celiz co-hosts.

She explained in a statement on Jan. 15 that the P20 payments deducted from ACT members are union dues that serve as benefits enjoyed by member-teachers in the form of medical benefits and union services, as well as entry into negotiations with the Department of Education for the Collective Negotiation Agreement.

Yet during the live broadcast of his program on May 2, Celiz said at the 13:47 mark:

Gano’n din si France Castro…’yung kanyang bente-bente na butaw rin sa mga guro, kung titipunin mo sa Metro Manila alone, they can generate more than P1.8 million a (month). So France Castro, saan napupunta ang almost P12 million a year? ‘Yan ang tanong sa kanya kasi by rules, ang mga butaw na ito na nanggaling sa recruit nilang mga guro, empleyado sa gobyerno, doktor [at] nurses sa public hospitals, at pati na mga private sector na mga manggagawa, butaw ang tawag dyan or dues…Ang tanong, saan napupunta ang 40 percent nito? By direction and by orientation, napupunta ‘yan sa Communist Party, at iyan ay ginagamit para ibili ng mga bala, baril, gamot, at mga pondo para sa NPA
(The same with France Castro. Her P20 collection from teachers, if you gather it just from Metro Manila alone, can generate more than P1.8 million in a month. So the question for France Castro is, where does the nearly P12 million a year go? That's the question for her because by the rules, these collections that come from the teachers they recruited, government employees, doctors and nurses in public hospitals, and even private sector workers are called butaw or dues…The question is, where does 40 percent of it go? By direction and orientation, it goes to the Communist Party, and it is used to buy bullets, guns, medicine, and funds for the NPA).

He even urged the Anti-Money Laundering Council and Anti-Terrorism Council to probe Castro in line with Republic Act 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

This is not the first time Castro, a known government critic since the time of former President Rodrigo Duterte, has been red-tagged.

Her organization is among the progressive party-list groups that make up the Makabayan bloc that has been repeatedly linked to the CPP, NPA and National Democratic Front.

Former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy previously said during the same program with Celiz that Castro was extorting money from teachers, according to news reports.

In her Jan. 15 statement, Castro said the P20 dues collected from members were legal:

Ito ay legal na kaltas sa mga member ng mga unyon na naaayon sa batas ukol sa Public Sector Unionism (This is a legal fee for union members in accordance with the law on Public Sector Unionism).

She was referring to Executive Order No. 180, the implementing rules and regulations of which states in Section 1, Rule III:

(f) No fees, dues, or other contributions shall be collected or disbursed by an officer, agent or member of an employees’ organization unless authorized by its constitution and by-laws
(g) Every payment of fees, dues or other contributions by a member shall be evidenced by a receipt signed by the officer or agent making the collection and shall be entered into the record of the organization kept and maintained for the purpose.

In the statement, Castro also expressed her intention to take legal action against Badoy for her unfounded allegations, saying

The spreading of this dangerous false information is an attempt by state forces to condition the minds of the public and demonize us as criminals...Fake news peddlers and their handlers are now working double time because ACT Teachers and the Makabayan bloc are at the forefront in exposing the excesses and anti-people policies of the Marcos administration.

Castro and her organization recently caught the ire of Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte after ACT issued a statement on March 22 suggesting the hiring of 30,000 teachers annually to solve the teacher shortage and decrease class sizes to 35 students.

This suggestion led Duterte to red-tag the group in a counter statement on March 27, arguing that the organization was diverting the public's attention away from the damage to Masbate schools caused by alleged NPA attacks.

Duterte, who was recently installed NTF-ELCAC co-vice chairperson, also red-tagged ACT Teachers Partylist for supporting the weeklong transport strike in March.

As of writing, the episode has generated more than 22,000 views, 760 likes, and 54 comments on SMNI’s YouTube channel that has more than 1.56 million subscribers. It was also streamed on the network’s Facebook page which garnered more than 4,600 views, 120 reactions, and 36 comments. (JIG)


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