Teachers must be registered voters to serve the elections
Two days before the deadline of registration for 2013 elections, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), does not expect for an extension of voters’ registration. However, we would like to bring to public attention the matter of voters’ registration of teachers and the practice of appointing them as chairmen and members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) during elections. We would like to cite the particular case in 2010 elections, the first ever election where we employed the automated system. Unfortunately, many teachers were not able to cast their votes.
The problem emanates from the usual practice of both the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Education (DepEd) in appointing teachers in the BEI. While election laws explicitly provide that only teachers who are registered voters of the city or municipality can be appointed as chairmen and members of the BEI, the assignments given to teachers are actually based on the places of their work, regardless of their registration. Due to this, teachers cast their votes in the precincts where they are assigned as BEI members during elections and not in the precincts where they are registered as voters. Still, there are cases that teachers are given BEI assignments even if they are not registered voters.
In 2010 elections, the first-ever election that the country fully utilized the automated election system (AES), many teachers were not able to cast their votes for several reasons. Some of them were deactivated for allegedly not having voted for two consecutive national elections. But the truth is, they actually voted in their precincts of assignment but the votes were not recorded in the book of voters in the precinct of their registration. Some of them failed to vote because they are assigned in distant polling places and could not afford to vote in their precincts of registration within the 30-minute limitation. Because in the AES, BEI members are not allowed to vote in their precincts of assignment, unlike in the past that Comelec provides 3 excess ballots for them, and the votes must only be manifested in the minutes of voting and counting.
The possibility of disenfranchisement was formally brought to the attention of the Commission several times- few months before the May 2010 elections.
As an answer to that query, the Honorable Commission promulgated Resolution 8878 on May 7, 2010, or 3 days before the May 10, 2010 elections and the last working day before the election day.
We are, however grateful that the Comelec resolved to reactivate the registration records of the teachers who actually served the previous elections (2004 presidential elections and 2007 mid-term elections) for exigency of service. The Resolution also said that registration records of teachers were inadvertently deactivated, thus, teachers registered or not were deemed reactivated and can be appointed to sit in the BEI.
Prior to the AES, the services of all public school teachers were needed by the Comelec. In 2007 elections for instance, the required number of BEIs has reached 800, 000. But in May 2010 elections, because of clustering of already clustered precincts, the Comelec only needed some 300, 000 BEI members. The problem is, most of the teachers, especially those who already attended the AES training and orientation were found out to be deactivated or non-registered. Comelec Resolution 8878 was made to resolve its own problem. The Commission created a legal remedy to their problem by allowing the teachers, whose registration were “inadvertently” deactivated to still sit as members and chairmen of the BEI. But many teachers were not able to exercise their right to vote. The resolution did not solve the problems of the teachers, and it only provides solution to the problem of the Comelec- the possible lack of teachers to serve as BEIs.
The DepEd estimated the disenfranchised teachers to 120, 000, or almost the same as half of the number of teachers who served the May 2010 polls. A number that could easily elect a district representative if counted.
In 2013 elections, we do not want this to happen again. Thus, we would like to reiterate our earnest appeal to the Deped and the Comelec, respectively, in considering appointment of teachers in BEI:
To verify the status of teachers’ registration to identify those who are qualified to sit in the BEI in the polling places where they are registered voters;
To reactivate the voters’ registration of teachers who have been deactivated, despite consistently performing their tasks in the past elections
We believe that the Commission has enough time, power and resources to preempt yet another massive disenfranchisement of public school teachers- the very facilitators of Philippine elections. Suffrage is a constitutional right of every citizen, and it is quite ironic that we teachers, the frontline workers to assure that every Filipino could participate to this democratic exercise will be deprived of this right.
While the terrible experiences in the past elections give us good reason to lobby for the optional poll duties of public school teachers, we still believe that this is a part of our extended obligation to our people, beyond classroom teaching- it is our patriotic duty. The teachers are more than willing to serve the country. The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) would be very happy to help the Honorable Commission in any way we can. #
Benjo Basas, National Chairperson 0920-5740241/ 3853437
October 29, 2012
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