The House committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired by Representative Fredenil Castro has approved for plenary debates a measure that would make election service non-compulsory on the part of public school teachers.
The measure, House Bill 5412, aims "to free school teachers from engaging in compulsory election duties as currently practiced and to open up election service to other government employees, members of the Commission on Election-accredited citizen arms and private citizens of known probity and competence,” Castro said.
Castro, who represents the 2nd district of Capiz, is a member of the National Unity Party (NUP).
HB 5412, also known as the Election Service Reform Act, is a substitution of five separate but similar bills earlier referred to the Castro committee for discussion and consolidation.
The authors of the bill are Representatives Antonio Tinio, Regina Ongsiako Reyes, Erlinda Santiago, Eric Olivarez, Lawrence Lemuel Fortun, Leonor Gerona-Robredo, Edgar Erice, Harlin Abayon, Nicasio Aliping, Jr., and Emmeline Aglipay Villar.
The bill authorizes the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to appoint any registered voter “in accordance with and in the order of preference as provided” under the measure, if there is a shortage of teachers willing and qualified to serve during elections.
This order of preference, as stated in the bill, is as follows: 1) private school teachers; 2) Department of Education's non-teaching personnel; 3) other national government officials and employees holding a regular or permanent positions, excluding members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP); 4) members of the Comelec-accredited citizen's arms and other Comelec-accredited civil society organizations and non-government organizations (NGOs); or 5) any citizen of known probity and competence who is not involved with any candidate or political party.
“In cases where the peace and order situation so requires, only members of the PNP and not the AFP may be deputized as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), Special Board of Election Inspectors (SBEI), Board of Election Tellers (BET) or the Special Board of Election Tellers (SBET),” Castro noted.
Under the measure, government employees need not be registered voters of the city or municipality where they wish to serve as election officers.
However, private school teachers, members of citizen's arms, and other civil society organizations and NGOs, and any citizen of known probity and competence appointed by the Comelec must be registered voters of the city or municipality where they are qualified to serve.
Persons rendering election services shall be entitled to honoraria, travel allowance, and such other benefits as may be granted by the Comelec, at rates to be determined and approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), subject to existing accounting, budgeting and auditing rules and regulations, the bill states.
Such honoraria and allowances shall be paid not more than fifteen (15) days after the date of election, and the rates shall be reviewed, when necessary, by the Comelec and the DBM.