By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) asked the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to dismiss the petition to disqualify its members from serving in the upcoming midterm elections as the campaign period starts on Tuesday.
ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said that COMELEC should dismiss the “misplaced, uninformed, if not malicious” petition lodged by Tao Muna Party-list to bar ACT members to serve in the May 2019 midterm elections.
Earlier, Tao Muna Partylist Secretary General Mohammad Fajardo said that it is “unlawful” for members of ACT “to be appointed” as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) since ACT is a political party under the party-list system.
However, Basilio argued that Fajardo “seems to have forgotten that there is no such thing as a wholesale disqualification of organizations, especially not on completely false and inaccurate grounds.” He also questioned Fajardo’s knowledge, or lack thereof, of “election rules and policies.”
In a letter to COMELEC, ACT argued that Tao Muna Party-list’s request was “devoid of factual and legal basis.” ACT maintained that it is an “organization composed of teachers, and education workers and advocates, as well as registered ACT unions from 15 out of 17 regions—distinct and independent” from the party-list group ACT Teachers. The group also emphasized that ACT has been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since its founding in 1982, 13 years before the party-list system has even been enacted by virtue of Republic Act No. 7941 of 1995.
ACT further contended that such move by a group who is running in the upcoming elections can only be interpreted as an “attempt to bolster its publicity at the expense of hardworking teachers and of the integrity of the upcoming elections.” The group added that Fajardo and his party-list “unjustly discriminated legitimate teachers in the performance of poll duties and attempts to tarnish the integrity of our teachers who have long been entrusted by the people with the sanctity of their votes.”
Basilio also noted that prior to Tao Muna’s petition, Fajardo was joined by Senatorial aspirant Atty. Larry Gadon, who is a “known Duterte and Marcos loyalist” in a press conference asking for the disqualification of teachers from ACT as poll watchers. “This appears to be part and parcel of the state’s schemes to persecute ACT, along with the profiling, harassment, vilification, and red-tagging of our leaders and members,” he added.
Meanwhile, Basilio stressed that ACT and its 200,000 teacher-unionists assured COMELEC that they are more than willing to perform their crucial role in the “facilitation of the ultimate democratic exercise of the Filipino people.” Thus, the group is “looking forward to a favorable response from COMELEC, whom we have worked closely with in previous elections.”
Basilio added that in any case, “we hope that this would also serve to educate some candidates on basic electoral policies and distinctions between legitimate mass organizations and party-list groups.” #MatalinongBoto2019