Teachers protest ‘sudden’ deactivation in voters’ lists, troop to Comelec
KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN
A group of public school teachers on Friday trooped to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to complain about the “sudden” deactivation of many teachers from the voters’ list for the May polls.
Many teachers who cast their votes in precincts where they were assigned as Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) were delisted because these were supposedly not reflected in the book of voters, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) said.
“It’s definitely not the teachers’ fault,” said TDC national chairperson Benjo Basas, who is also a teacher in Caloocan City. “It’s a discrepancy on the part of the Comelec.”
BEIs are the government personnel in each polling precinct tasked with assisting voters and counting the votes at the precinct level.
The BEIs are traditionally public school teachers.
Teachers serving on the BEIs will have an array of new tasks associated with election duty, including distributing and explaining long, multiple-choice ballots to voters and operating the PCOS.
Election laws automatically deactivate a voter who fails to cast his votes in two consecutive national elections.
In a separate interview, Department of Education Undersecretary Franklin Sunga also said that the teachers are afraid that the allotted 20 minutes will not be enough for the teachers to vote on election day.
Teachers who will serve as BEIs are concerned about how they will be able to handle the volume of voters who will vote in every precinct.
Every precinct will have one Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine, each of which can accommodate about 1,000 voters.
He also said that the teachers are worried that voters might get hostile if they are not given another ballot once their first one is rejected by the PCOS unit.
“Nag-alala sila baka siyempre aawayin sila ng mga voter (They are worried that the voters might quarrel with them),” he said during the consultative conference with the poll body on Friday.
Earlier, the poll body said that in case a ballot is rejected, the voter will only be allowed to feed his or her ballot to the PCOS machine once more then it will be confiscated.
But it said that the voter will now be given three more tries depending on the problem.
After that, no spare ballot will be issued to the voter.
Sunga added that the BEIs are likewise apprehensive about implementing a watchlist that would supposedly prevent suspected double or multiple registrants from voting more than once in the May polls.
“These people in the watchlist might be arguing, legally arguing their point,” he said.
What’s being done
The DepEd official said that they have already enlisted the help of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in the May polls.
“(The) IBP will be providing free of charge lawyers in case of any suit that our BEI will have in this forthcoming elections,” he said.
He likewise said that they have already raised the concerns of the BEIs to the Comelec.
“Definitely… the Comelec has been addressing always the concerns of the teachers,” he said.
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said that they are trying to find a “formula” that would allow dienfranchised teachers to vote again.
Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, for his part, said that they have released a diagram of the voting process to help the BEIs facilitate the influx of voters.
“The voting of maximum 1,000 reg voters is the maximum, there are precincts that will only have 200 or 300 voters,” he said, adding all the other matters will be discussed during their en banc meeting on Monday.
The Comelec said each clustered precinct will have at least three BEIs.
There are 76,340 clustered precincts in the May polls. – GMANews.TV