The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill granting free insurance coverage to teachers and other members of every board of election inspectors assigned during elections.
House Bill 6528 also provides free insurance coverage for members of the Special Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), the Board of Election Tellers and their support staff who are assigned to various tasks that would ensure the conduct of fair and honest elections in the country.
Principal author and A-Teacher Party-list Rep. Juliet Cortuna said she expects Senate approval of its own version of the bill in time for the May 2013 polls.
Cortuna wrote House Bill 3710 which seeks the grant of a minimum P200,000 in death benefits for poll workers whose cause of death is election-related.
This was gathered after the House Committee on Suffrage called for the swift approval of House Bill 3710 which seeks to insure members of the board of election inspectors that would grant a minimum P200,000 death benefit for them.
Authored by A-Teacher Rep. Julieta R. Cortuna, HB 3710 also covers the hospitalization of BEI members who suffer from illnesses or injuries while on election duty.
Cortuna's original version of the bill grants hospitalization coverage of P1,500 per day provided that the total amount will not exceed P150,000.
Under her bill, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) who are assigned to act as BEI members will also be covered by the insurance coverage under the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
"Members of the BEI play a very big and significant role at ensuring the public has a clean and honest election. History has shown us that numerous election-related violence was committed against the lives of these humble public servants," Cortuna said.
Cortuna said BEIs should not just be a part of statistics. Laws should be promulgated to protect their future.
Under the proposed "Election Officer/Staff Insurance Act of 2012," the insurance coverage shall commence from the time the insured is exposed to any election-related risk.
The bill states that the coverage of election-related activities shall not be limited to the acquisition of election paraphernalia and it shall be terminated upon proper turnover of the same to the appropriate receiving officer or until any election-related risks are no longer present.
In pushing for approval of the measure, Cortuna recalled the case of 42-year-old public school teacher Nellie Banaag who was "burned to death" by still unidentified suspects during the May 2007 elections.
Cortuna said Banaag was on her way to the town hall of Taysan, Batangas to deliver the ballot box assigned her when she was waylaid by the heavily armed suspects.
In the same year, four public school teachers were kidnapped in Maguindanao to stop them from reporting for election duty.
In Abra, two public school teachers were seriously wounded when attacked by unidentified suspects while on their way to submit the ballot boxes.
"In 1995 elections, Filomena Tatlonghari, a teacher in Batangas was shot and killed by men who snatched the ballot boxes she was protecting," recounted Cortuna, who represents the education sector in the Lower House.
She lamented that many of the violent incidents on BEI members have remained unsolved.
"Most of these incidents remain unsolved and the families of these innocent BEIs are left in the dark without anything but memories of their loved ones - heroes in their own way," Cortuna stated.
She added: "These teachers should not just be part of statistics. We must promulgate laws that would protect their future."