By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday assured that the necessary preparations are being made and monitored to ensure that its personnel – particularly the teachers who will serve poll duties – will be assisted during the conduct of the 2019 midterm elections next week.
In a press conference, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the department is continuously monitoring all the election-related activities involving schools and its personnel, especially the teachers. “Definitely, DepEd is fulfilling its mandate,” she said – noting that the department is recognizing the “very big role” that it plays in the elections.
“We have been meeting with concerned officials and we have created a task force for the elections,” Briones explained. “Even as we say that we have a major role in the election, this is a nationwide activity,” she said – adding that DepEd is focusing on its role to provide, prepare and assist teachers who will be members of the Electoral Board. “We are doing everything that we can to make sure that information is available and the process is closely monitored,” she added.
DepEd data showed that 36, 830 schools will be used as poll precincts and 531, 307 officials, teachers, and personnel are being mobilized for the May 13 midterm elections.
Undersecretary and Spokesperson Annalyn Sevilla explained that DepEd has been briefing and training all teachers who will serve the elections.
Sevilla said that in terms of training, it is still on-going for the teachers in Mindanao.
Those who will serve poll duties in Luzon and Visayas, she added, have completed their election-related training already.
“We can say that our preparation is more than enough but in terms of preparedness of what might happen, that we cannot quantify,” she explained.
Sevilla noted that DepEd has also been conducting external engagements and internal preparations related to the 2019 midterm elections.
She also lauded the additional Php 50 million given to DepEd to be used for election-related activities nationwide.
Aside from training the teachers, conducting seminars and closely coordinating with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), Sevilla said that DepEd will make sure that teachers will be assisted on the election day through the establishment of the Election Task Force (ETF) and Monitoring Center in DepEd Central Office from May 12 to 15.
Sevilla also noted that DepEd has developed an election monitoring application software “to be used by teachers to report incidents, issues, and concerns encountered before, during and after the elections.”
However, the use of the said election software did not sit well with some teachers who will serve poll duties.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) raised concern over the DepEd’s move to use the software.
ACT alleged that DepEd is “requiring” all teachers serving in the polls to report election events through a mobile phone application.
“The directive would entail additional work and expense on the part of teacher-poll workers,” the group said.
DepEd, ACT said, “claims the app project intends to help teachers during the elections” but its Election Hotline received “complaints from teacher-poll workers that they are being called for last minute meetings to orient them on how to use the mobile app.”
“They said they are being required to answer a comprehensive election monitoring form by 8 am and 8 pm on election day, thus imposing added work on an already loaded day as well as requiring them to expand on mobile data load,” ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez said.
Martinez lamented that if DepEd really wants to help teachers, “it only has to make itself available and accessible to teachers when they need assistance.” She added that “requiring all to submit a comprehensive report will be counterproductive as it will be an added burden to the already laborious and costly performance of poll work duties.”
ACT alleged that the reports which DepEd “requires teacher-poll workers to submit through” a mobile application include a pre-election report; election proper report; post-election report; facilities report; benefits report; welfare report; and other incidences and comments report.
“In order to access the app, teachers must have a smartphone and internet data, which she notes will not be provided to them.
Hence, the additional expense for teacher-poll workers,” Martinez said.
Given this, ACT urged DepEd “not to burden teachers with more work and expenses” and instead “devise an appropriate and less-taxing mechanism to provide assistance” to teacher-poll workers in the coming midterm polls.
“DepEd can and should monitor the situation of teachers and schools during elections, and provide the necessary assistance,” Martinez said.
“But they must not compel all hundreds of thousands of teacher-poll workers to file a report,” she added — noting that DepEd only needs to “be accessible to teachers” who need its help.