2022 Philippine Elections

Comelec probes substitution of poll workers in Cotabato City

Dwight de Leon
Comelec probes substitution of poll workers in Cotabato City
The poll body asserts that only teachers certified by the DOST must handle vote-counting machines

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is coordinating with its field personnel in Cotabato City to resolve the issue on the reported replacement of 200 teachers as poll workers in the area.

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi had told Radyo Pilipinas that the teachers who underwent training decried having been replaced with untrained ones, following a supposed recommendation made by the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to the city election officer.

In an interview with PTV, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said the Comelec is working to resolve the issue.

“Currently, we are coordinating [with field personnel] and finding a way to to fix that initial problem,” Garcia said in Filipino on Friday, May 6. “The Comelec stands by its policy that electoral board members must have undergone a series of training.”

Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo also said that the poll body is already looking into the matter.

“Why were the teachers we trained replaced, if there are grounds to replace them. But they cannot replace teachers certified by the Department of Science and Technology, especially if none of the three electoral board staff will be DOST-certified,” Casquejo noted on Thursday, May 5.

Rey Sumalipao, chief of the Comelec office in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, had explained that the MBHTE was given the power to recommend teachers who will man the polls, based on a past memorandum of agreement between the Comelec and and the MBHTE.

The MOA was supposedly signed during the time of Sheriff Abas as Comelec chairman.

But Sumalipao said even he had been belatedly informed about the MOA because he was reshuffled to BARMM just for the election period. He also agreed that DOST-certified teachers should be the one operating the machines.

Reshuffling of BARMM officials

Commissioner George Garcia also confirmed a reshuffling of election officials in BARMM.

Na-issue po ng ating kagalang-galang na chairman na dapat ayusin sa areas na iyan. Kung ilan po ang bilang ng mga na-reshuffle o na-reassign na mga election officers sa bandang area po ng BARMM at ibang areas po sa ating bansa, babalikan ko po kayo sa bagay na iyan dahil medyo madami-dami rin po ang nailipat na election officers,” he said.

(Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan said those areas must be fixed. In terms of how many election officers were reshuffled or reassigned in the BARMM and other areas in the country, I will have to get back to you because there were many.)

Reporters tried to obtain a copy of Casquejo’s supposed memorandum of his opinion on the reshuffling, but he said it was filed with the en banc during an executive session.

Comelec Resolution No. 10742 promulgated on December 16, 2021 prohibits the transfer of officers and employees in the civil service during the election period.

But the poll body, in the same resolution, authorizes itself to transfer or assign its personnel from January 9 to June 8, 2022 so it can “effectively and efficiently carry out its constitutional mandate to conduct free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections.” – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.