Teachers are often said to be the heroes of every election season. This is because they are called on to do back-breaking, largely thankless work during the polls. Two teachers recount their experiences regarding the recently-concluded elections in this article.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Vol. VII, No. 15, May 20-26, 2007
Tax Escario and Joy Martinez both wish the 2007 senatorial and local elections would be the last elections in which teachers would be assigned to do poll duties.
Escario, 45, who has been teaching at the Muntinlupa Central School for almost 15 years, remembered having done poll duties in the same school for all elections since the 1992 presidential polls. He said the recently-concluded senatorial and local elections have been the most difficult for him so far.
Days after the elections, Escario was still smarting from the long sleepless night that he endured from election day itself all the way to the counting of votes at the precinct level. He had to be up at dawn on election day itself, and had to be awake all through the next dawn.
Before that, he and his co-teachers had several briefings, as well as trips to City Hall to check the election paraphernalia, and trips to the school where they had to clean up the classrooms as preparation for election day. For all of these, they had to spend a considerable amount of transport money.
He revealed that Muntinlupa City teachers have yet to be compensated for this. “We have yet to receive the transportation allowance that we were supposed to receive before election day,” he disclosed.
From election day itself to the end of the counting of votes at the precinct level, Escario said, he went a total of 25 hours without sleep.
To make matters worse, he and his co-teachers in Muntinlupa City have been subjected to intrigues spread by supporters of some of the local candidates.
“There are people who have been spreading anonymous text messages here accusing the teachers of being in cahoots with the candidates who are leading the race,” he said. “There are also text messages saying that several teachers are now in jail for supposedly cheating. That is all untrue.”
He said it was “impossible” for them to be involved in any cheating. “How can we cheat when there were pollwatchers behind us, bellowing at us for every mistake that we made?” he said.
Based on the unofficial quick count conducted by the AMA Computer University, oppositionist Aldrin San Pedro is leading Muntinlupa City’s mayoral race.
“I don’t think the opposition would be the ones spreading these intrigues, since they are precisely the ones who are leading,” Escario said. “This is probably the work of losing candidates who cannot accept that they’re losing.”
For all this hardship during election day and the counting of votes, full compensation for him and his co-teachers was delayed.
Aside from the P300 ($6.43 at an exchange rate of $1=P46.60) transportation allowance that teachers are supposed to get during the election period, they are also entitled to P3, 000 ($64.37) as honorarium for election duty – of which they are to get half upon retrieving election paraphernalia from the municipal or city hall, and another half upon returning the ballot boxes.
“I had to wait two days before receiving the second half of my honorarium,” Escario revealed.
Escario was luckier than many other teachers in that he at least received the first half of his honorarium upon retrieving election paraphernalia.
In the cities of Caloocan, Parañaque, and General Santos, teachers failed to receive even the first half of their honoraria, data from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) showed. The same went for teachers of Culiat High School and Commonwealth Elementary School in Quezon City.
Meanwhile, in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and the cities of Cebu and Bacolod, teachers were not given any transportation allowance – just like Escario.
“This is the most difficult election for me because of all the abuse that I and my co-teachers suffered,” Escario said.
He could only be thankful that the harm was not physical. In some places, teachers had to put up even with physical harm.
In Bangued, Abra, five teachers were wounded in an ambush on election day. In this they were at least more fortunate than two other teachers in Taysan, Batangas – who perished, also on election day, after a polling precinct was set on fire.
Martinez was a bit luckier than Escario. There were no untoward incidents reported in Malabon City, where she did election duties, because the mayoral candidate ran unopposed. She received her transportation allowance and honorarium on time.
Still, it was no walk in the park, she said. “The work was nevertheless very taxing,” she told Bulatlat.
Her most difficult elections, she said, were the 2004 presidential elections. “That was because almost all positions were very hotly contested,” she pointed out.
She and Escario both wish that teachers would no longer have to be deputized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the next polls.
“I do hope that teachers would no longer have to work in the next elections,” Martinez said. “They have to go through so much during elections and the government can’t give them enough protection or even benefits.”
“I’m all for the computerization of elections,” Escario said. “That would free the teachers from all the poll duties they have to do.”(Bulatlat.com)