Teachers demand extra pay, support for poll workers

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Teachers and volunteers prepare the voting precinct for the national election, in Magarao, Camarines Sur, Philippines, May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David
Teachers and volunteers prepare the voting precinct for the national election, in Magarao, Camarines Sur, Philippines, May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines called for the reissuing of overtime pay for teacher-poll workers a day after the elections in the Philippines.

The demand, they said, was also raised in prior elections due to teachers “being obliged to stay in their precincts for up to two or three days after election day.

This was after the partylist received reports that teacher-poll workers stationed in Quezon City and Manila schools faced delays in replacing “corrupted” SD cards and malfunctioning vote-counting machines (VCMs), in addition to working up until 7 PM the day before.

A week before this, VCMs reportedly operated normally during the final testing and sealing (FTS). Even as voting hours neared their end, their hotlines still received reports of VCMs still malfunctioning among other issues that led to excruciatingly long waits for voters.

Sandwiched between these issues are reports of red-tagging, vote-buying, and even election inspectors asking voters to leave their ballots with them. Electoral watchdog group Kontra Daya said that voters must be given the option to feed the ballots and obtain their receipts themselves, in accordance with current election guidelines.

“It is difficult for voters to be confident in election proceedings marred by machine errors and breakdowns, as these cast doubt on the capacity of the machine to count their votes. This can be attested by reports of voters refusing to hand over their ballots to election officials, choosing instead to wait for replacement voting machines until the early hours of the morning to be sure that their votes are cast,” Kontra Daya said.

They also slammed the lack of a “genuine” source code for the VCMs, saying that “as the software and hardware of the machines are both owned and protected by Smartmatic, it is difficult to completely vet the process by which the machines count the votes.”

Their Southern Tagalog branch would also somewhat echo these findings, as 48% of the reports from their area dealt with VCM errors and 36% more were on voter disenfranchisement.

Through it all, COMELEC acted slowly on requests for immediate technical assistance, ACT Teachers said. In response, Partylist Secretary General Raymond Basilio also described COMELEC as “napakabagal! (sluggish)” and “napakapalpak! (very sloppy).”

Guro na naman ang bumabalikat sa kapalpakan ng gobyernong ito! At napakalaking sampal sa mga gurong BEI [Board of Election Inspectors] ang deklarasyon ng COMELEC na tagumpay ang eleksyon habang ni hindi pa sila [sa oras na ito]!,” Basilio decried.

(Once again, teachers shoulder the failures of this government! And COMELEC crying victory while teachers are working overtime is a huge slap to the faces of teachers in the BEI! [Board of Election Inspectors])

Under Sec. 168 of the Omnibus Election Code - Article XIV, members of the BEI have the following responsibilities upon being assigned to a polling place: hold the voting and vote-counting, serve as COMELEC deputies in supervising the elections “in a free, orderly, and honest manner,” and other actions listed in the Code.

Basilio added that “around 64%” of the reports received by their hotlines involved “machine errors and irregularities,” which he said led to voters being disenfranchised and to teachers being overworked.

Sa puntong ito, hindi lang paliwanag ang hinihingi namin sa COMELEC, kundi kagyat na aksyon at pananagutan (At this point, we’re not only demanding an explanation from COMELEC, but also swift action and accountability),” Basilio said.

Despite COMELEC calling election day a “peaceful” one, protests were organized in different parts of the Philippines. This was after reports of electoral violence (with one instance leaving six dead in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao [BARMM]), as well as allegations of electoral fraud and other incidents, garnered public attention.

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes-in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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