DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) urged the Department of Education (DepEd) for a dialogue over reports that some local of its local officials have already declared ineligibility of ACT members to serve as Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in the upcoming May midterm election.
In a statement on Saturday, March 9, ACT cited the following incidents that forced them to call the attention of DepED for a dialogue:
1. A speaker in SIPAG-DepEd’s seminar in Tarlac said that ACT members are not qualified to serve as BEIs;
2. A principal in Davao said that ACT members are prohibited to serve as poll workers;
3. An unsigned document on the qualifications of BEI members made the rounds in Siniloan Laguna, stating as part of the requirements to become eligible to serve as BEI, one must have “no connections with any political/sectoral party/group (not a contributor or donor, or supporter) for instance ACT (Allegiance of Concern Teachers).” As we know of no organization named as such and with the string of attacks launched by the state against ACT, we cannot help but feel alluded to. Upon verification, COMELEC Siniloan admitted having issued the statement due to its confusion with the ‘non-partisan’ clause in the Comelec order. With due clarification on the nature of ACT, the local Comelec later recalled the document; and
4. A DepEd official in Eastern Samar told ACT leaders that members would have to resign from the organization in order to be qualified to serve as BEIs.
“The outright singling out of ACT members in election service has no legal basis. No law or policy allows for the wholesale disqualification of BEI members—especially not on the grounds of their affiliation to any organization, as such would be a case of political discrimination prohibited by the law,” the group said.
They pointed out that barring teachers from serving as poll workers is a violation of R.A. 10756 or the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA) which states that public school teachers shall be prioritized in election service.
DepED clarified on Friday last week that the department has not issued any order prohibiting members of ACT to serve as BEIs.
Instead, the education department dared ACT to clarify if its members also belong ACT Teachers Party-list because the two appears to be intimately connected.
DepED cited the case of Benjamin Valbuena who once served as national chairperson of ACT.
“The distinction is relevant in the matter of membership in the electoral boards. If teachers are members of the ACT Teachers Party-list, then the disqualification under Article IX-C Section 8 of the Constitution may apply. The said provision states that “political parties, or organizations or coalitions registered under the party-list system, shall not be represented in the voter’s registration boards, boards of election inspectors, boards of canvassers, or other similar bodies. However, they shall be entitled to appoint poll watchers in accordance with the law,” they added.
But ACT, however, refuted DepED’s statement, claiming that such was an improper and unreasonable proposition for ACT to identify its members who are also members of ACT Teachers Party-list.
“It’s the identification of our former chairperson Benjamin Valbuena being a second nominee of ACT Teachers party-list is bordering on being malicious. Mr. Valbuena has retired from service since April 2018 and has relinquished his post since September 2018,” the group said.
“Needless to say, ACT can only speak for itself and cannot speak for any other organization that the teachers have chosen to join,” the group added. (davaotoday.com)