Teacher groups push for bill lifting compulsory nature of election service

Media Coverage,Press May 1, 2015 4:19 PM

MANILA – Four days before Congress resumes sessions, the three biggest teacher organizations in the country pressed leaders of the House of Representatives to give priority to a bill that makes it only optional for teachers to do election-related duties.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and Philippines Public School Teachers Association (PPSTA) called on Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales and other lawmakers to push for the immediate approval of House Bill No. 5412, now on Second Reading.

Also known as the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA), the bill lifts the compulsory nature of election service for public school teachers, who for years have often complained of harassment from rival parties and goons, the risk of criminal prosecution without enough legal support, and long, tension-filled work at meager allowances.

Besides lifting the compulsory nature of election service, the bill also provides for institutionalized benefits, legal assistance, and service incentive leaves for those who do agree to serve as Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs).

“This is a very important piece of legislation for our 600,000+ public school teachers natiowide.  I call on all my colleagues at the House of Representatives to join me in pushing for ESRA,” Rep. Fredenil “Fred” H. Castro,  House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms committee, said Thursday. 

The committee has studied the matter carefuly and believes it’s time to give teachers the freedom of choice in serving during elections, Castro said. “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.”

He also allayed fears that the bill could leave a huge gap in elections service. “The bill provides for replacements in such cases. We will mobilize private school teachers, national government employees, and members of COMELEC-accredited citizens arms.”

There are enough qualified persons to serve as poll workers, added Castro.

The national chair of the Teachers Dignity Coalition, Benjo Basas, said for his part: “We just want to decide on our own and not be mandated by law to serve.  Teachers would still serve.  If there are no peace and order problems, you can count on us.”

The bill will institutionalize government assistance to those serving as poll workers, such as medical and death assistance for election-related risks, legal assistance and legal indemnification to protect teachers from harassment lawsuits.

Atty. Randy F. Pablo, PPSTA legal counsel, said the bill will help them as teachers no longer need worry about benefits and delays in the release of their honoraria.  The bill penalizes officials who cause a delay in the release of honoraria beyond 15 days from election day.

Atty. Takahiro Kenjie Aman of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) said they are looking to have the bill approved on 2nd Reading when Congress holds its sessions from  May 4 to June 11.

The ESRA bill is authored by by Reps. Castro, Antonio L. Tinio, Regina Ongsiako Reyes, Erlinda M. Santiago, Eric L. Olivarez, Lawrence H. Fortun, Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo, Harlin C. Abayon, Nicasio M. Aliping, and Emmeline Y. Aglipay.


By: Clara Masinag, InterAksyon.com
April 30, 2015 6:58 PM

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