THREE days before the barangay elections, a teachers’ group on Friday appealed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for an additional compensation package, assurance of security and legal protection for the teachers who will sit as Board of Election Tellers (BET) on Monday’s village elections.

According to the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), the Comelec seems to ignore their request for a meeting they have submitted as early as mid-August.

“Teachers will work for almost 24 hours or even more, from the time of distribution of election materials in the respective Comelec centers at early dawn of Monday up to the completion of all the tasks that usually up until the morning of the next day,” Benjo Basas, the group’s national chairperson, said. “Yet teachers are only paid half the amount of the honorarium in the last automated elections held in May.”

Basas said manual elections like the one on Monday would expose the teachers in more possible errors, physical and mental fatigue, health risks, legal trouble and threats of harassment and physical attack.

“Teachers deserve more than the total of P2, 500. We propose a payment of at least P4,000, the total amount Comelec paid the teachers who sit as members of BEI last May,” he said.

The TDC head also noted that the poll body still failed to review and implement its legal mandate that prohibits the appointment of teachers who are not registered voters in the city or municipality as members of the BET.

“Both the election code and the subsequent Comelec Resolutions including the one for this October 28 Barangay elections prohibit the non-registered voters of the locality to sit as members of election tellers, yet the Comelec, in many instances allowed this to happen. Our teachers who are actually compelled to do this duty may face a possible election offense,” Basas explained.

Earlier, teachers from Manila raised this issue and asked a Comelec representative during the training in Araullo High School, the Comelec personnel agreed that indeed there may be a violation but told them to address the concern to the Comelec national office.

Aside from these two issues of compensation and legal protection, the group also appeal to the Comelec and the national government to ensure that teachers will be protected against physical harm. Basas noted that Barangay elections, most of the time, are most intense and tensionable due mainly to the clannish nature of Philippine villages and the opposing candidates and their supporters are coming from the same grassroots localities, some are actually blood relatives.

“We call on the Comelec to ensure the visibility of law enforcement authorities in areas they declared as election hot spots, from the start of the teachers work until they have finished all the tasks including the transportation of election paraphernalia from Comelec centers to polling places and vice versa,” Basas said.

The TDC head believes that the presence of law enforcers may deter those who are planning to disrupt the process thru violence, tension and disorder on election day.

“The problem with the bad politics and ailing electoral system is, everything may be blamed to the teachers, the front liners in elections, as if we have a direct stake in it.” Basas lamented.

“We are the hapless victims of pre-election harassment, we cannot just leave the polling precincts whenever violence erupts on election day and after the polls, we are also subjects of electoral protests filed by the losing candidates,” he added.

Basas also noted that teachers, most of the time, face these difficulties alone for the DepEd has no readily available legal assistance and the Comelec serves as prosecutors in election-related cases.

“We appeal to the candidates and the general public to please spare the teachers. We do this task because we consider this as our patriotic duty, aside from this is our mandated work as public school teachers. However, given the choice, many of us would be opted not to sit as BET and would not risk our profession, our safety, our limbs or even our lives,” Basas said.