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Members of teachers’ union banned from election duty

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said on Wednesday that certain local offices of the Department of Education (DepEd) had barred its members from serving as election inspectors, an extra job highly prized by teachers because of the honorarium and other benefits that come with it.

The union said DepEd officials in Central Luzon and Eastern Samar told school heads that ACT members could not serve as election inspectors in midterm elections in May.

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In Laguna province, a document reportedly has been circulated stating that ACT members are unqualified to serve on the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), the union said.

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Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general, told the Inquirer that some members had been told by employees from division offices that if they wanted to serve on the BEI, they must first resign from the ACT.

Aside from being a “malicious strike against teachers’ right to unionize,” the ACT said in a statement that such actions undermined the economic rights of teachers, whose “scant income” is greatly enhanced by the P6,000 honorarium given by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to election inspectors.

“As the surveillance and harassment suffered by our members continues to intensify, another dirty tactic of vilification and persecution is employed by the state in a futile attempt to enfeeble us and our organization,” it said.

The teachers’ group is mired in a court fight with the Philippine National Police, which landed in hot water earlier this year when it confirmed police officers had been asked to conduct a sweeping inventory of ACT members around the country as part of anti-insurgency operations.

Rights groups were quick to condemn the PNP for disregarding the teachers’ rights to assembly and free speech, and the DepEd central office said it would instruct its local divisions not to release information about ACT members as a way of respecting their right to privacy.

The alleged steps DepEd local offices took to bar ACT members from serving in elections in May were especially egregious, the union said, because their group had been instrumental in the passage of the Election Service Reform Act (Esra), which increased the honorarium given to election inspectors.

Esra benefits

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The Esra raises the compensation given to the chair of the BEI from P3,000 to P6,000, and to BEI members, from P3,000 to P5,000.

The law also provides benefits, including election-related death insurance, legal and medical assistance, and transportation allowance, to the teachers.

“Teachers on an entry-level salary pin their hopes on this honorarium to meet their daily needs,” Basilio said.

Although election service is voluntary for teachers, many accept the “difficult and perilous job” anyway to reap the rewards of the Esra, their “hard-earned victory,” the ACT said.

The group urged the DepEd central office to clarify whether there was an order from the national government to discriminate against ACT members, and to take “measures to correct the unlawful and misinformed pronouncements of its local officials.”

Lawrence Cruz, DepEd media relations officer, said the agency’s executive committee would meet first before issuing a statement.

Comelec action sought

Basilio said the ACT had also written Comelec, the only body with authority to appoint or disqualify election inspectors, asking it to resolve the issue quickly.

“No law or policy allows for the wholesale disqualification of BEI members—especially not on the grounds of their affiliation to any organization, as such would be a case of political discrimination,” the group said.

A government-accredited negotiating body for public school teachers, the ACT has repeatedly denied accusations that it is a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The union, with more than 180,000 members nationwide, operates separately from the ACT party-list organization, which currently has two members in the House of Representatives.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, ACT, Allianceof Concerned Teachers, Election Duty
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