• Law makes teachers’ poll duty voluntary


    There will be no shortage of teachers serving as Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) in the May 2016 polls despite looming implementation of a law that does not require them to render service during elections.

    The assurance was given by Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio after the House of Representatives approved his proposed Election Service Reform Act, which makes election service voluntary for public school teachers and other citizens, increases honoraria for poll workers and mandates benefits such as medical and legal assistance, among others.

    The House adopted the Senate version of the measure during plenary session late Tuesday night, meaning it only lacks the President’s signature to become a law.

    Also under the bill, election service should be performed by public school teachers on a voluntary basis.

    In case of a lack of public school teachers, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may appoint the following, in order of preference: private school teachers; national government employees, excluding military personnel; members of Comelec-accredited citizens’ arms; and any qualified registered voter with no partisan political affiliations.

    Philippine National Police personnel shall be appointed as a last resort if no other qualified voters are willing to serve.

    Also, the Election Service Reform Act raises the honoraria for BEI chairman from P3,000 to P6,000; for BEI members from P3,000 to P5,000; for Department of Education supervisors from P3,000 to P4,000; and for support staff from P1,500 to P2,000. They will also be given a travel allowance of P1,000—double the existing amount.

    “The vast majority of those who will serve in the elections [this year]are still public school teachers. This bill won’t affect their deployment because the honoraria have been increased, and there is a solid package of benefits. There will be more teachers willing to serve,” Tinio told reporters.

    “In addition, those who are in dangerous places won’t be forced to serve, and they will not be liable for any election offense,” Tinio said.

    He dedicated the passage of the bill to teachers Filomena Tatlonghari and Nellie Banaag.

    Tatlonghari was killed in a ballot box-snatching in Mabini, Batangas, in 1995 while Banaag died when armed men burned down her school during the 2007 elections.

    “This is a historic victory for public school teachers who have long clamored to make election service voluntary. While teachers have discharged the burden of obligatory election service well, their ranks have also paid the price,” Tinio said.

    “Teachers will continue to serve in the overwhelming majority of polling precincts nationwide, and they will do an even better job. We urge President [Benigno] Aquino [3rd] to sign this historic measure as soon as possible,” he added.

    Tinio acknowledged the support of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd and House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms committee chairman Rep. Frednil Castro for the passage of the bill.

    Their support, he said, was crucial in securing House approval given the limited session days remaining and the difficulty of achieving a quorum.


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