Optional poll service for teachers ‘dangerous’

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Making election service optional for public school teachers will put the elections at the mercy of politicians, an opposition lawmaker said on Friday.

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Rep. Joselito Atienza of Buhay Hayaang Yumabong party-list made the warning in connection with the proposed House Bill (HB) 5412, which seeks to make election service non-compulsory for public school teachers.

Under HB 5412 authored by Rep. Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list, election service will be non-compulsory for public school teachers instead of the existing mandatory policy and would allow the Commission on Elections to appoint national government employees, private school teachers and any qualified Filipino citizen to man the teachers’ erstwhile posts.

“This is a dangerous move [that]could change the character of the entire electoral process and would be tantamount to practically handing over the electoral process to politicians who are partisan,” Atienza, a former mayor of Manila, said.

Instead of removing its mandatory nature, he argued that the measure should instead increase the honorarium for those rendering election service to P8,000 from the proposed P4,000 to encourage public school teachers to continue to serve.

Tinio agreed with Atienza but such amendment, he said, is not yet voted upon in the plenary because of the absenteeism of majority of the members of the House of Representatives for more than a month now.

“Public school teachers have been rendering election service for decades in a non-partisan manner.  They have endured long hours without sleep and harassment from watchers of different political parties. It is but right that they be given higher compensation for their hard work and dedication,” Atienza said.

“Without the teachers, the credibility of our elections and democracy will be at risk,” he added.

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