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House passes bill freeing teachers from compulsory election duty

MONTHS before the May 2016 elections, a measure making election service noncompulsory for public-school teachers has been approved at the House of Representatives.

House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms Chairman and National Unity Party Rep. Fredenil H. Castro of Capiz and Committee on Appropriations Chairman and Liberal Party Rep. Isidro T. Ungab of Davao said the proposed “Election Service Reform Act,” or the House Bill 5412, has been transmitted to the Senate for its own deliberations.

The bill aims “to free schoolteachers from engaging in compulsory election duties as currently practiced and to open up election service to other government employees, members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)-accredited citizen arms and private citizens of known probity and competence.”

Under the bill, should there be a lack of teachers willing, available and qualified to serve, the Comelec may appoint any registered voter in accordance with and order of preference as provided under the proposed statute.

The order of preference is as follows: 1) private-school teachers; 2) the Department of Education’s nonteaching personnel; 3) other national government officials and employees holding regular or permanent positions, excluding members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP); 4) members of the Comelec-accredited citizens arms and other Comelec-accredited civil- society organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); 5) any citizen of known probity and competence who is not involved with any candidate or political party.

It also provides that government employees need not be registered voters of the city or municipality where they wish to serve.

Private-school teachers, members of citizens’ arms, and other civil society and NGOs and any citizen of known probity and competence must be registered voters of the city or municipality where they wish to serve.

However, in cases where the peace and order situation so requires, only members of the PNP and not the AFP may be deputized as members of the Board of Election Inspectors, special Board of Election Inspectors, Board of Election Tellers or the Special Board of Election Tellers.

The measure also provides that persons rendering election services should be entitled to honoraria, travel allowance and such other benefits as may be granted by the Comelec, at rates to be determined and approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), subject to existing accounting, budgeting and auditing rules and regulations.

Such honoraria and allowances shall be paid not more than 15 days after the date of election, and the rates shall be reviewed, when necessary, by the Comelec and the DBM. Other benefits shall include death and/or medical assistance for election-related risks at rates to be determined by the Comelec and the DBM.  J

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