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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will investigate why over 2,500 teachers, mostly from the Bangsamoro Administrative Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), backed out from performing their duties in the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
In a press briefing on Friday, November 3, Comelec Chairman George Garcia also said that they will file complaints against those who threatened or caused violence against teachers, Comelec officials and employees.
Garcia assured the teachers who decided not to work for security reasons that it’s their “absolute right to refuse to serve on election day.”
“We have no plans to imprison any teacher, that is not our intention. They are our heroes, we do not treat our heroes as criminals,” Garcia said.
In Lanao del Sur, some policemen who were supposed to substitute for the teachers who backed out also did not appear during the local polls.
Because of this, the Comelec had to tap Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel to serve as election officers instead.
The absence of many teachers in polling precincts caused delays in the elections in Lanao del Sur.
For the succeeding elections, the Comelec is considering training military personnel as substitute electoral board members.
In the BARMM, 249 barangays were under the red category, accounting for 70% of the 357 villages under Comelec’s red category nationwide.
Based on Comelec’s color category system, green signifies an absence of security concerns, while yellow designates areas of concern. Orange is used for places of immediate concern, while red indicates a grave security concern.
The Comelec, along with the Philippine National Police and the AFP, categorized these areas based on several factors, including:
- Suspected election-related violence
- Intense political rivalries
- Possible deployment of partisan or private armed groups by candidates
- Politically motivated election-related incidents
- History of areas being declared as concerns under Comelec control.
Meantime, Comelec said it cannot provide extra pay to teachers who worked overtime in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections because of budget constraints.
The poll body also cited a joint circular between the Commission on Audit and the Department of Budget and Management, which provides that only employees of an agency are entitled to claim overtime.
“The teachers who served as electoral board members are not employees of Comelec. Moreover, the budget provided to us did not provide for such an item,” Garcia earlier said. – Rappler.com