A TEACHER'S FLIGHT AS ELECTION FRONT LINER



[Teachers endure 12-hour work on small stipend serving as election frontliners. The automation has nothing to do with their security and welfare]

MANILA, MAY 10, 2013 (MANILA BULLETIN) By Ina Hernando-Malipot - In the last four elections, public school teacher Olive De Guzman has been rendering her services to ensure that the process is orderly, honest, and peaceful. While changes may have been drastic due to the automation, teachers, she said, face the same challenges and problems involving their security and welfare.

Mandated by law, public school teachers like De Guzman are required to serve the elections as “front liners” being members of Board of Elections Inspectors (BEIs). “For me, it’s an honor to serve in the elections because the government entrusts this very important event to teachers like me,” De Guzman told the MANILA BULLETIN.

However, she admitted that “inconsistencies” in policies instituted by concerned agencies including the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) make the heavy responsibility “heavier” and “harder” for teachers who dedicate their time and energy to make the elections as successful as possible.

A TEACHER’S PLIGHT

A teacher for the past 10 years, De Guzman has already experienced both worlds so to speak---the manual and automated elections.

Unlike in the previous elections where votes are counted manually, De Guzman said that “automation is more advantageous for us because it makes the counting faster and easier.” However, despite automation, teachers are still bracing themselves for possible technical difficulties.

This Monday, she will sit as a BEI member in Morning Breeze Elementary School in Caloocan City. She said that there will be 17 clustered precincts but only two modems to transmit the election returns. “We are expecting delays in transmitting because it’s inevitable that the PCOS machines would conk out just like what happened during the first automated elections,” she said

Along with 51 other teachers who will serve as BEIs, De Guzman is also preparing herself to handle possible harassment and other threats from poll watchers of running candidates. While Caloocan City is not considered an “election hotspot,” she said tension usually builds up between candidates and supporters every election. “This is why we are appealing to candidates to tell their watchers to remain calm so as not to scare us. If we are scared, the more we could make mistakes in doing our job,” she said.

De Guzman, who is also the Faculty Club President of Morning Breeze ES, pointed out that some of the policies of Comelec and DepEd were not “considerate” to teachers particularly in the required duty hours and provision of service credits.

For the May 2013 midterm elections, the poll body requires teachers to stay in their designated precincts for 12 hours—from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. “Before, we are tasked to stay for 10 hours, from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. They extended the time and it would be dawn before we could wrap up everything, especially if there are delays in transmission,” De Guzman said. She added that while they are expected to be in school at 7:00 am to open the precincts, teachers are required to prepare election paraphernalia as early as 4:00am.

De Guzman, along with other TDC members, also appealed to DepEd to retain the five-day service credits which are usually given to teachers who serve the elections just like in the past. “This year we only get three-day service credits because they argue work is now lighter, but in reality we expect the same problems and endure longer hours,” she said.

When it comes to the honorarium, De Guzman is one with other teachers groups’ appeal for increase. “The truth is, no honorarium can equate the true value of the services rendered by teachers during elections, so I hope they increase it,” she said.

Honoraria of teachers on poll duty will be paid P3,000 with P500 ce and P500 for the final testing and sealing of machines and will be coursed through their ATM accounts.

De Guzman also asserted that poll duty for teachers should be voluntary.

“It would be better if teachers have the option to do it willingly and not be made mandatory by the government,” she said.

De Guzman said this consideration would serve best teachers who are in or nearing retirement age or those assigned in areas considered as hot spots.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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