Poll inspectors’ lack bared

Media Coverage,Press May 1, 2015 4:24 PM

A teachers’ group on Thursday said that the Commission on Elections may be facing a severe shortage of 120,000 public teachers who can  volunteer as board of election inspectors in the 2016 polls.

Teachers Dignity Coalition national chairman Benjo Basas said  that the shortage can offer Congress a chance to push for the immediate approval of a proposed bill that would scrap the mandatory election service for public teachers.

At the sidelines of an election forum, Basas admitted that as many as 120,000 public teachers who refused to render their services to work as BEIs due to their said experience  like delays in payment for their honoraria and allowances; lack of occupational hazards and injury pay; undue  harassment;  election-related violence; and lack of option for teachers to serve or not in the elections.

Basas was talking about the proposed House Bill No. 5412 also known as the Election Service Reform Act which makes election service non-compulsory for public school teachers, giving them the choice whether or not to serve as poll workers in elections

The bill also provides institutionalized benefits, legal assistance, and service incentive leaves for those serving as BEIs.

Basas  said that his group was pushing for the bill in order to institutionalize government assistance to those serving as poll workers entitled to as medical and death assistance for election-related risk, legal assistance and legal indemnification.

“Many teachers have  been subjected to lawsuits from losing candidates in the past,” Basas said.

Chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms  Rep. Fredenil Castro said that his committee has studied the matter carefully and believes it is time to give teachers  freedom to choose.

“Our teachers are generally willing to serve but we should allow them to make that decision and not use the powers of the State to impose on them,” Castro said, calling on  the House of Representatives to join him in pushing for ESRA.

Center for Political Economy Foundation for Economic Freedom Jonathan Malaya said that the usual concern  is that such bill will lead to depletion of BEI volunteers once BEI service is made optional for public school teachers.

Malaya explained that   a major feature of the bill is to improve both availability and quality of BEI personnel.

“The package of benefits offered to BEI personnel, from option out of BEI services, institutionalized benefits, is primarily intended to attract BEI personnel not just from the teachers’ sector but from various sectors of the society.

Philippine Public  School teachers’ Association legal counsel Randy Pablo said that the bill provides the Comelec to appoint private school teachers; Comelec accredited poll watchdog or citizen arms and non-government organization; and any citizen of known probity and competence who is not involved with any candidate or political party.

Legal Network for Truthful Elections member lawyer Takahiro Kenjie Aman expressed hopes that the bill would be approved on second reading when Congress holds session from May 4 to June 11.

ESRA was filed by Castro, and his colleague in the House, representatives Antonio Tinio, Regina Ongsiako Reyes, Erlinda Santiago, Eric Olivarez, Lawrence Fortun, Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo, Harlin Abayon, Nicasio Aliping, and Emmeline Aglipay.


by Sara Susanne D. Fabunan
May. 01, 2015 at 12:01am

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