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Congress to tackle ACT Teachers’ bill on voluntary election service for public school teachers

8 August 2011 No Comment

The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms is scheduled to deliberate on a bill making election service voluntary for public school teachers and other citizens tomorrow, August 9, 2011.

ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio is the principal author of House Bill 4096 “An Act Amending Section 13 of Republic Act No. 6646, Otherwise Known As ‘The Electoral Reforms Law of 1987,’ Making Election Service Voluntary for Public School Teachers and Other Citizens”.

Section 13 of RA 6646 requires that public school teachers shall compose the Board of Election Inspectors who supervise polling precincts during elections. Tinio explained that the proposed amendment  mandates that BEIs shall be composed of volunteer citizens. They shall be selected and appointed by the COMELEC from a pool of volunteer citizens, based on the following order of preference: 1) public school teachers, 2) private school teachers, 3) employees in the civil service, and 4) citizens of known probity and competence.

“The bill seeks to open up the election service to all citizens. Ensuring an honest, clean electoral system is a fundamental responsibility of all citizens in a democratic society and this responsibility should not be confined solely to public school teachers,” said Tinio.

Tinio added that teachers are most vulnerable in times of elections. “They exert their time and effort and they even risk their lives just so to fulfill the electoral duty bestowed to them,” he said.

The ACT Teachers solon noted that a number of teachers have been killed while carrying out their mandatory elections service. He cited the cases of teacher Filomena Tatlonghari, who was shot and killed in Mabini, Batangas after refusing to surrender a ballot box to armed men during the May 1995 national elections;  Nelly Banaag, a 47-year-old public school teacher who died after masked armed men burned two classrooms which served as polling precincts in Taysan, Batangas during the May 2007 national and local elections; and Musa Dimasidsing, a teacher who was assassinated after he exposed electoral fraud in Maguindanao during the 2007 national and local elections.

Tinio also noted that low pay and the delayed release of their compensation remains a perennial problem for teachers on election duty. ”Teachers also become vulnerable to harassment, usually by losing politicians who resort to filing cases against them. Opening up election service to all citizens will protect teachers from such harassment and further insulate the public school system from politics.”

Several teacher organizations that have endorsed the House Bill 4096 are expected to appear in the committee hearing, such as the 10,000-strong Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA), Caloocan Public School Teachers Association (CAPSTA), Philippine Public School Teachers Association-National Capital Region (PPSTA-NCR) and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines (ACT-Philippines). These organizations will also mobilize their members to show support for the said house measure.

To further push for the immediate passage of the bill, key teacher leaders are also invited as resource persons to provide inputs on the actual scenarios experienced by public school teachers during elections, who are as follows: Ms. France Castro, President, QCPSTA; Mr. Benjie Valbuena, Vice Chairperson, ACT-Philippines, Mrs. Cristy Manalo, President, PPSTA-NCR, Mr. Rosalio Ayque, Public Information Officer, CAPSTA; and Mrs. Erlinda Anonuevo, President, Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA).

“With the support of teachers’ organizations nationwide, we’re confident that this bill will be passed by Congress,” ended Tinio.#



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