PUBLIC school teachers are now allowed to turn down poll duties in the May 9 elections after President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act No. 10756 or the Election Service Reform Act.
The law enables teachers and other qualified citizens to serve as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), raising their honoraria and allowances for serving in the elections.
“The Department of Education [DepEd] welcomes the newly signed Election Service Reform Act, which makes election duties voluntary for public school teachers. We always welcome legislations that promote and uphold the rights and safety of teachers,” Education Secretary Armin Luistro said on Tuesday.
Under the new law, teachers have the option to serve or not to serve as members of the BEIs. The law also extended qualifications to other persons who can serve as BEI members to private school teachers, national government employees, and DepEd non-teaching personnel, respectively.
Honoraria for teachers serving as the chairperson will be increased from P3,000 to P6,000, while members of the BEI get P5,000 each, from P3,000.
DepEd Supervisors meanwhile will have their honoraria increased from P3,000 to P4,000 while support staff will be increased from P1,500 to P2,000.
Teachers will be given an additional travel allowance from P500 to P1,000.
The bill also grants five days of service credit instead of three days to all government officials and employees serving as members of the electoral boards, DepEd supervisor/official and support staff.
Death benefits from P200,000 to P500,000 and the medical assistance will be given to teachers who sustain illnesses while in the performance of election duties.
Benjamin Valbuena of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers who lobbied for the bill in Congress, said the new law is already a welcome development for teachers allowing them to escape great peril come election day.
“Many teachers will be happy because they can now go to their home provinces to take a vacation and they won’t risk their lives for the Comelec to deputize them to serve in the elections,” Valbuena said.
DepEd Assistant Secretary Reynaldo Laguda meanwhile assured the public that there won’t be any problems should teachers opt not to serve in the polls as they are anticipating for the full automation of the 2016 elections, which would only require 300,000 teachers unlike in the manual form of elections.
“Under the proposed changes, not all teachers serve in the elections,” Laguda said.
Luistro said that he is confident that more teachers will still opt to protect the sanctity of the ballot come May 9, even with a law giving them the option not to do so.