MANILA, Philippines – Leading presidential candidates Senator Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte criticized the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for planning to buy uniforms for teachers serving in the May 9 elections.
The Comelec is set to spend P26.55-million ($576,351) in taxpayers’ money for these “bib vest” uniforms, to be worn only on election day.
In an interview with reporters, Poe said the Comelec should spend its money wisely.
“Ang dami ngang mga nirereklamo nilang gagastusin nila. Pati nga ‘yung thermal paper ‘nung umpisa ay nagiging issue sa kanila (They actually have many complaints about their expenses. At the start, even thermal paper became an issue for them),” Poe said, referring to the paper the Comelec will use to print voting receipts on May 9.
Poe suggested giving IDs instead of “bib vest” uniforms to identify teachers serving as election inspectors
“Para sa akin, siguro ‘yung tamang prayoridad lang ng paggasta ng budget ang sanang tiningnan nila (For me, they should look at the right priorities in spending their budget),” she said.
Duterte’s spokesman, Peter Laviña, said their camp shares the position of public school teachers “that such amount can be added to their allowances instead.”
“This one-time use may truly be wasteful,” Laviña said.
Rappler is still trying to reach the Comelec for comment on Poe and Duterte’s statements as of posting time.
Roxas: Uniforms to add ‘credibility’
For this part, Roxas, welcomed the plan to buy election uniforms – though it was apparent in a recent interview that he wasn’t too familiar about the issue.
Roxas told reporters: “Kung ito ay makakapagbigay ng dagdag na kredibilidad dito sa mga inspektor na ito, e ano ba naman? Mga empleyado ba ito ng Comelec (If this will add credibility to these inspectors, so what? Are these employees of the Comelec)?”
“Teachers po,” the media told Roxas.
Roxas answered: “Teachers din ito. O, e ‘di parang natulungan natin ang ating mga guro na magkaroon ng dagdag na uniporme (These are also teachers. Then it’s like we’ve helped these teachers have additional uniforms).”
Two other presidential bets, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, have not commented on the issue as of posting time.
Pimentel: ‘Why throw away P20M?’
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate electoral reforms committee, earlier weighed in on the issue as well.
Pimentel told Rappler on Tuesday, March 29, “Why are we throwing away P20 to P22 million for an unnecessary expense?”
He added: “Why not just save the amount for some contingencies that might come up later, or even add it to the cash allowances of those who serve in the elections?”
Pimentel also said teachers probably “will appreciate additional cash” more than uniforms.
Teachers this year will get P6,500 ($141.35) for serving as election inspectors, while their election day uniform is P75 ($1.63) each.
Facing criticisms, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez defended the bib vest uniforms. He said these uniforms can uplift the “dignity” of election inspectors.
Jimenez told reporters, “If you’re looking at making even the election workers aware of the dignity of what they are doing, then you’re also creating another frontline in the battle against election fraud.” – with reports from Camille Elemia, Pia Ranada, and Bea Cupin/Rappler.com