The Commission on Elections said on Wednesday that it ‘has no basis to disqualify public school teachers who are members of ACT Party-list in serving as Electoral Boards.”
The Comelec issued the statement as it denied the petition of Tao Muna party-list, which asked the poll body to not appoint ACT members.
According to former labor sector Representative Mohammad Omar Fajardo, who represents Tao Muna, not appointing ACT members to the BEI will “ensure a fair and orderly conduct of the elections.”
But the Comelec denied the petition, saying that public school teachers who are members of ACT Party-list “may serve as Electoral Boards for the 13 May 2019 National and Local Elections pursuant to RA 10756,” or the Election Service Reform Act.
A copy of the ruling was received by ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro.
The poll body said it moved to deny Fajardo’s request “for lack of basis in law and in fact,” according to the letter.
“Membership in any party-list is not a ground for disqualification of members of the Electoral Boards,” the Comelec en banc said.
“The Commission has no basis to disqualify public school teachers who are members of ACT party-list in serving as Electoral Boards,” it added.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, meanwhile, said the Comelec was only implementing the law when it gave the ruling.
“We should stress that it [is] illegal for any individual or public official to prevent a teacher from serving in the elections on the ground of membership in any organization or party-list, or require the dissociation or withdrawal of membership in any of the unions or organizations under or associated with the Alliance of Concerned Teachers,” he said.
Tinio and Castro had described Fajardo’s petition as “discriminatory,” as it violates the constitutional rights and freedom of the teachers to express and unionize.
They also insisted that ACT and ACT Teachers party-list are separate entities.
“We thank the Comelec for sticking to the law and siding with teachers on this matter. With this decision, there should no longer be a barrier to teachers, or any citizen for that matter, who volunteered to serve in the upcoming polls,” Castro said.
“This decision should also be a signal to the same group or any other group who have plans to attack the rights of our teachers, on the harebrained speculation that they are partisan and cannot be trusted with our ballots,” she added.
Meanwhile, The Commission on Human Rights raised the alarm over some “new” problems brought about the power of social media to affect voters’ decision, and vote-buying and other “serious” but “old” problems.
Lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said “social media trolls who bully, and spread hatred and fake news could influence or confuse the voters.”
She cited that even before the start of the March 29 campaign period, “politically motivated violence already claimed many lives.”
“Plus the horror of narco-politics,” she said.
Despite the automation of the electoral process, she said “we are still hounded by old familiar problems starting from voters’ registration to the final counting and canvassing of votes, vote buying, disenfranchisement, manipulation of voters lists, voter intimidation and harassment.
“Despite these serious problems, every election renews our hope for better governance; more transparent government spending; improved services i.e.; access to quality education, health, employment and livelihood opportunities, waste management and environmental protection; better infrastructure; greater attention to the fight against corruption, poverty alleviation, enabling programs for people’s participation, etc.,” she added.
She urged high school and college students to help ensure the conduct of fair and honest elections.
She called on the voters to go out on May 13 and exercise their right to suffrage.
“Let us exercise and protect our right to vote,” she said.
She said the Commission supports the Commission on Elections, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Philippine National Police, non-partisan non-government organizations, barangays, organized communities, mass media and other poll watchdogs in ensuring peaceful and orderly elections.
“We encourage the Filipino youth, Rizal’s ‘fair hope of the Fatherland’ — from grades 11-12 and college students on summer break — to get involved. Volunteer with election watchdogs, like the PPCRV, and help ensure an honest, orderly and peaceful elections,” she added.
“We at the CHR are duty-bound to stand by citizen-defenders of the right to vote,” De Guia said.