DepEd: Required or not, teachers ready to render election duties

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) welcomed Congress' approval of a bill that will allow public school teachers to opt out of election duty. 

But DepEd spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali is confident that even if the bill is not enacted into law in time for the 2016 elections, teachers who will be appointed members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) will accept the job.

"Ang layunin lang naman dito, 'yung basic principle na 'wag naman sana nilang pilitin 'yung guro natin kung ano mang dahilan meron sila, kung ayaw nilang magsilbi. Parang sana may ganung karapatan naman 'yung mga teachers," Umali said during the department's first Kapihan on Thursday, January 28.

(The only goal here is the basic principle of not forcing teachers to render election duties if they do not want to, whatever their reason may be. Hopefully, teachers will have that right.)

Umali recalled that in past elections, when votes were counted manually, teachers were exposed to various kinds of dangers, as well as pressure from politicians.

"But even with that right or option [not to render election duties], we are very confident that our teachers, if appointed as BEI members, they will accept."

Out of more than 650,000 teaching personnel in the country, Umali said more or less 233,487 teachers will be needed for the 2016 elections. The education department has already submitted a list of teachers who may serve as BEI members.

Under Senate Bill 2178 or the Election Service Reform Act (ERSA), the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may appoint the following in case there would be a lack of election officers:

(In order of preference)

If no other qualified voter volunteers, personnel from the Philippine National Police will be the last resort.

The Senate bill, which was adopted by the House of Representatives, now awaits the signature of President Benigno Aquino III. 

Increase in honorarium

Umali said the department is right on track in its preparations for the 2016 elections. By February or March, the DepEd, together with Comelec, will train the teachers for their election duties, including how to use the vote-counting machines.

As for the honorarium, even without the proposed law, teachers will get P4,500 ($94.21)* – a P500-increase ($10.47) from the 2013 rate of P4,000 ($83.75). Below is the breakdown, based on figures cited by Umali:

The honorarium will be higher under the proposed ERSA, as election volunteers can get a maximum of P6,000 ($125.63), on top of a P1,000 ($20.92)-travel allowance.

The department is also prepared in case of any election-related injuries or deaths.

"Mayroon tayong P13-million ($272,009.59) fund that may be used for election-related deaths or injuries for our DepEd and non-DepEd personnel, at 'wag naman po sana, kapag may nasawi, meron po silang P200,000 ($4,184.76) na maaaring makuha ng kanilang mga anak at heirs," he explained.

(We have a P13-million fund that may be used for election-related deaths or injuries for our DepEd and non-DepEd personnel, and in the event someone dies – we hope it won't happen – their children and heirs will receive P200,000.)

*US$1 = P47.76

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.