By Chito Chavez
Asserting their basic right to just compensation, members of the militant group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) demanded the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for a refund for the tax-exempt of the teacher-poll workers who served in the 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
“We are here to remind Comelec of their debt to thousands of teachers whose poll service compensation was wrongly deducted a 5 percent tax in 2018, lest they forget,” said ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez.
The ACT 2019 Teachers’ Election Hotline launched last March has so far documented teachers from at least 10 regions who have not received their refund yet.
According to the group, Comelec automatically deducted five-percent tax on all poll workers during the 2018 elections, following the imposition of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
“The meager compensation teachers receive for poll service is a product of years of advancing teachers’ rights and welfare inside and outside the parliament. On the 1st year of reaping our gains, the BIR and Comelec undermined the victory of ESRA by arbitrarily imposing a 5 percent tax,” Martinez noted.
She was referring to RA 10756 or the Election Service Reform Act of 2016 which was first implemented during the 2018 elections.
ACT argued that all teacher-poll workers, especially the tax-exempt ones, deserve to receive and enjoy their honorarium and allowances in full after ‘risking life and limb’ in order to facilitate the clean and safe conduct of elections.
“The deductions made against tax-exempt teachers in 2018 was in itself a grave injustice to them. The overdue refund only adds insult to injury,” she added.
ACT also warned Comelec that 2019 payrolls for poll worker honoraria in some electoral districts still reflect the five-percent automatic deduction on all teacher-poll workers, as documented through ACT’s election hotline.
“If tax-exempt teachers do not get their full pay for poll service, this will constitute an election offense under ESRA.
We hope Comelec offices, down to its basic units, do not aggravate the situation by defying the law,” stressed Martinez.
The teachers’ federation renewed their call for Comelec to “urgently release the 2018 withheld taxes from poll workers with an annual income threshold of P250,000, such as Teachers 1.
Also, ACT reiterated their demand to completely scrap the 5 percent tax imposition on election service honoraria and allowances.