MANILA, Philippines – A year before elections nationwide, various groups called for the approval of a House bill that seeks to make election duties for public school teachers non-compulsory.
The groups – like the Philippines Public School Teachers Association (PPSTA), the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) – ackowledged, however, that even if the proposal is enacted anytime now, a year is not enough for government to put in place an alternative setup. A new law can be effective in the 2019 elections.
“We will mobilize private school teachers, national government employees, and members of Commission on Elections-accredited citizen arms. There are enough qualified persons to serve as poll workers,” Representative Fredenil Castro, chairman of the House committee on sufffrage and electoral reforms, said in a press conference on Thursday, April 30.
House Bill 5412 or the Election Service Reform Act states that a public school teacher “may refuse from rendering election service on grounds, such as but not limited to, health, age, or security concerns.” (READ: House bill seeks non-compulsory poll duties for teachers)
For those who will sign up for election duties, the bill seeks to provide fixed compensation, death or medical assistance for election-related risks, legal assistance and indemnification, and service credit for the public school teachers.
PPSTA legal counsel Randy Pablo said these will serve an an “incentive for public teachers to continue serving in elections.”
TDC national chairperson Benjo Basas said that public teachers, when they render election duties, become very vulnerable to political camps or goons, so they need to feel safe and protected.
“Teachers would still serve. If there are no peace and order problems, you can count on us,” he said.
Castro said the House bill, which is now set for a second reading, is “one of the fastest bills passed at the committee level.”
“This is a very important piece of legislation for our 600,000-plus public school teachers nationwide. I call on all my colleagues at the House of Representatives to join me in pushing for [the passage of the bill],” Castro said.
But not ready for 2016 polls
Castro, however, admitted that the provisions of the bill, if ever passed anytime soon, won’t be good for implementation in the upcoming elections.
If ever teachers won’t be required in 2016 to render service, he explained, those who will substitute them should be identified and undergoing training by now.
“It’s not healthy to immediately implement this bill for 2016 due to lack of preparations. I am convinced that with the timeframe between 2015 and 2019, the Comelec and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will have enough time to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations for this bill,” Castro said.
Center for Political Economy, Foundation for Economic Freedom representative Jonathan Malaya agreed, saying that though they want the bill to be approved fast, it shouldn’t be rushed just for the 2016 polls.
“We just hope that the Comelec give the teachers the support they need. The task of teachers during elections is not easy, especially those assigned in conflict areas,” he told Rappler. – Rappler.com
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