By Chito Chavez
Asserting their right to just compensation, teachers belonging to the militant group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) raised deep concerns that teacher-poll workers’ honoraria may not be paid after the President stated the possibility the General Appropriations Bill might be vetoed should his office find pork insertions by lawmakers.
In February, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) warned that the reenacted 2018 budget cannot fully fund the poll workers’ compensation.
ACT, in a dialogue with Comelec officials in December 2018, alleged the 2019 budget proposal fell short of the necessary amount to cover this.
“With only less than a month to go before the election, teachers’ election honoraria still hang by a thread. No one from the administration has sufficiently addressed this, and it’s causing much distress and anxiety among teachers who are at risk of getting uncompensated for performing a very important yet precarious duty in the polls,” said ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez.
Per RA 10756, or the Election Service Reform Acts, members of the Board of Election Inspectors are entitled to receive honararia amounting to P5,000 to P6,000, depending on their position, and transportation allowance of P1,000 each.
For the 2019 midterm polls, they shall receive another P2,000 allowance for attending required training.
ACT has demanded that Comelec and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) immediately provide an update on the status of the election honoraria, as well as on the actions being taken to ensure ample allotment for it and for its timely release.
This, they say, should be given prompt attention and resolution as election is nearing.
“Many of our teachers chose to serve in the elections and sacrifice their much needed vacation to contribute to the nation’s call for a clean and honest elections. Consequently, they have much hope that the election honoraria would help them get by amid the recent surges in prices of oil, food and utilities,” said Martinez.
ACT also called on the poll body to ensure that the election workers’ transportation allowance be given before the day of the mid-term elections to spare teachers from spending their own money in transporting election paraphernalia to poll precincts.
They also reminded that ESRA mandates for the full payment of election honoraria not later than 15 days after May 13, 2019.
Issues on election service pay
“We hope that Comelec has addressed the many issues regarding the payment of election service compensation which we have experienced in the 2018 barangay elections. We call on the commission to clarify these issues among our teachers,’’ said Martinez.
The group raised the following problems that confronted poll workers in the 2018 barangay elections:
1. Unjust and unnecessary deduction of 5 percent tax even to those who are tax-exempted;
2. Varying release and non-release of travel allowance in different regions;
3. Use of cash cards which prevented poll workers from withdrawing the full amount of their compensation.
Pork-free 2019 budget
ACT added how time was wasted discussing billions of pesos of pork insertions, which was eventually conceded to by both chambers of Congress, but not enough time was spent deliberating budget matters concerning the people.
“We maintain that all pork insertions must be scrapped down to the last centavo. However, the people should not suffer further for it. Instead, our interests must serve as the basis in deciding the fate of the 2019 budget,” urged Martinez.
ACT called on President Duterte to prioritize people’s interests in deciding on the fate of the 2019 budget.