EDUCATION Secretary Armin Luistro has warned public school teachers nationwide against involving themselves in partisan politics as the 2016 election nears.
He noted that public school teachers, including school heads, should remain non-partisan and continue to uphold neutrality during elections.
“We [at DepEd]have always reminded our teachers not to participate in partisan politics and to be models of professionalism at all times but most especially in these months as we near the election period,” Luistro told this reporter in a text interview on Wednesday.
The DepEd chief also asked candidates not to use the teachers to advance their political interests.
“At the same time we appeal to our candidates for local and national positions to keep our teachers free from pressure and partisan interference. Our teachers have election duties that we need to keep beyond reproach,” Luistro said.
For the past years, public school teachers had been deputized as poll workers as mandated by the law.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) in an earlier statement called on the government to make election duties optional, not mandatory.
The group said the teachers, who are the frontliners during elections, should be freed from compulsory poll duties as most of them experience sleepless nights, hunger, fatigue and sometimes harassment from candidates.
Worse, it added, some of the teachers have become victims of violence in election “hot spots.”
Luistro, in an earlier interview, said he is open to suggestions that teachers should not be forced to render election duties next year.
Rep. Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list has filed House Bill 5412, which seeks to make election service non-compulsory for public school teachers.
“With the proposed legislation on optional service for teachers, that would be an additional support and help so they will not be harassed,” he said.
The DepEd chief noted that the Education department and the Commission on Elections are also discussing raising the payment of teachers who render poll duties.
“Last May 2013 elections, teachers were given P3,000 and an additional P500 for testing and sealing and P500 for transportation if they are Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) members,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Joselito Atienza of Buhay Hayaang Yumabong party-list wanted to increase the honorarium of teachers serving during elections to P8,000 from the proposed P4,000.