MANILA, Philippines — After a series of incidents involving public school teachers who served as Board of Election Tellers (BETs) in the 2010 synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, the Department of Education (DepEd) expressed support to the proposal of making poll duties for teachers optional.
Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro said DepEd has been supporting teachers in their call to make their poll duties optional. “We have already actually written and made our representation with Comelec (Commission on Elections) on our request to make the teachers’ involvement in the elections optional,” he said.
However, Luistro said that this request may require some legislation because currently, the teachers are mandated to serve.
“Maybe that will be the target that we’ll have in the next elections,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) stands firm in its belief that the election duties of public school teachers should not be made compulsory. Since its formation, the organization has been lobbying in Philippine legislature for the amendment of a particular provision of the Omnibus Election Code which mandates public school teachers to work during elections. “Our experiences in the past elections are more than substantial bases for such demand,” said TDC national chairperson Benjo Basas.
TDC, through its command post set up to assist teachers in their election-related duties, has received many complaints from BETs and other volunteers. According to TDC spokesperson Emmalyn Policarpio, most of the reported cases – aside from delay in election paraphernalia and discrepancies in voters’ list – involved harassment from local candidates and their supporters.
“Teachers in Baesa High School in Caloocan reported that that a certain candidate refused to allow BETs to go home at 9 pm when in fact, they were up as early as 12 midnight before the election date to wait for the election materials,” she said.
Another reported case in the TDC command post is in Quirino High School where policemen were tapped to serve as watchers after an untoward incident involving supporters took place.
Apart from the compensation and workload issues being raised by teachers every election time, they are calling for the government to ensure their safety and security by not compelling them to man the polls. “It is during election time that teachers become prone to untoward incidents,” Basas said.
Policarpio and Basas said that until the approval of the bill seeking for optional poll duties for public school teachers, “we will constantly remind the government to put the welfare of teachers in paramount consideration.”