By Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal
Today, millions of voters will troop to voting centers all over the Philippines to cast their vote and elect Barangay and SK officials who shall serve until May, 2020. The last time the country had elections for barangay officials was way back in 2013. With the postponement of the barangay elections twice, the three-year term was extended to five years.
Elections are good for a country’s democracy. It offers the voters an opportunity to renew the mandate given to elected officials, or in the alternative, provide the voters the opportunity to replace the officials with a new set of individuals who they think can provide better service and governance.
Before the break of dawn today, the Board of Election Tellers, otherwise called the Electoral Board, will already have collected all the election paraphernalia from the office of the city/municipal treasurer and local Comelec Election Officer, and brought the same to the various voting centers. They have the unenviable task of running the elections in the precincts. And being manual elections, despite having started to work since midnight to get the supplies, the bulk of their work will generally start at 3 p.m., after finishing processing of the voters in the polling precinct (voting may end after 3 p.m., if there are voters who still haven’t yet cast their vote). Being manual elections, the hard work of counting and appreciation of the votes for barangay and SK candidates will take hours, with some having to count votes well into the wee hours of the morning, or even after the sun has already risen. So many of the Electoral Board will have been working continuously for over 24 hours.
With a vast majority of the Electoral Board being comprised of public school teachers, I have to once again remind everyone of the selfless and dedicated work these individuals do. Public school teachers have been serving as BET and BEI for our electoral exercises. I’m pretty certain that they don’t do it for the monetary compensation, considering the dangers, physical harm and other risks involved in being a member of an Electoral Board. In several cases, the risks have resulted in the deaths of some public-school teachers while performing their election duties. I met many public-school teachers who served as Board of Election Inspectors and Board of Election Tellers while I was still a Comelec Field official assigned all over the Philippines, even before I was appointed Comelec Commissioner. I have to say that when you talk to them, you get a sense of service that goes beyond the typical rhetoric and job description. You see love for country, a level of sacrifice that you don’t commonly associate with civil service. There is pride in what they do, as primary gatekeepers of the electoral process.
Today will be no different because even if the positions are less contentious and the personalities not as “interesting” in the eyes of the national media, the public school teachers will once again provide a kind of service that is far from commensurate to what they will be receiving in terms of monetary gain. They will safeguard your vote and ensure that the community leaders you chose will reap their rightful victory.
They will once again work tirelessly, in pursuit of credibility in this barangay elections. Their role will be heightened because unlike in the automated system, they will have to count vote per vote, name after name, position after position. All in all, a tedious task in a classroom where emotions run high and where accusations of cheating are predictably rampant.
Once the last vote is counted, the winners rejoice and the losers complain. All in a day’s work, right? But not for the teacher whose day is far from over.
So, if it isn’t too much to ask and should you read this timely reminder before going to the voting center, may I request that you kindly take a second to thank the members of the Electoral Board, our public school teachers, for their selfless work and dedication. They are at the core of every election and are an indispensable part of a successful democratic exercise.