Press Release
January 25, 2016

Election service optional for teachers; soldiers to ensure peaceful elections

The Senate today approved on third and final reading the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA) which proposes to make election service for public school teachers non-mandatory. The measure recommends to increase the honoraria of electoral boards and its support staff who served in the elections.

Sen. Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2178, said the measure will "give the public school teachers the liberty to choose whether to serve in the elections as Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) or not, by way of making the election service optional to protect them from political pressures and consider their personal welfare."

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the measure is meant to address the concerns of the country's more than 630,000 teachers currently tapped by the Comelec to help in the conduct of the upcoming polls: "It is only timely that we give our teachers better benefits and options regarding their poll duties, given the risks they take in ensuring that elections are facilitated in a proper and clean manner."

Under the measure, Pimentel said, compensation for BEI chairman would be increased from P3,000 to P6,000; for BEI members from P3,000 to P5,000; for Department of Education (DepEd) supervisor/official from P3,000 to P4,000 and for the support staff from P1,500 to P2,000. The teachers and all persons who rendered election service would also be entitled to a travel allowance of P1,000 each which is higher compared to the transportation allowance of P500 given in 2013.

The increase in honoraria for those serving in the electoral boards is intended to take effect this coming 2016 election, according to Pimentel.

Once the bill is passed into law, he said, any person who causes the delay in the payment due to the BEI members beyond the prescribed period of 15 days from the election date shall be liable for an election offense.

In the past elections, he said BEI members encountered delays in receiving their honoraria.

Pimentel said the bill would also grant five days of service credit instead of three to all government officials and employees serving as members of the electoral boards, DepEd supervisor/official and support staff.

The proposed ESRA also seeks to increase the death benefits from P200,000 to P500,000 and the medical assistance in such amount as may be "sufficient to cover for medical and hospitalization expenses until recovery" of injuries sustained while in the performance of election duties, according to Pimentel.

Under the measure, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is mandated to establish a legal indemnification package for persons in any administrative, civil, or criminal action or proceeding rendering election service.

"We must ensure that the very people whom we rely on to manage the conduct of elections in this country are properly cared for, so that they may continue to preserve, with utmost pride and passion, the very foundation of our democratic system - an utterly free, honest and orderly election," Pimentel said.

Meanwhile, the Senate also approved on final reading Senate Bill No. 886 which defines the role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during elections.

"Allegations regarding the involvement of certain members of the AFP affecting the results of elections have been plaguing this country and reached its pinnacle sometime in June 2005 when the so-called 'Hello, Garci Scandal' broke out," Pimentel, sponsor of the measure, said.

The bill aims to limit the role of the AFP during the elections to "only maintaining peace and order" when there are "no available units or members of the Philippine National Police" in the area or when there is a need to augment the PNP units in a certain area.

Pimentel said the AFP can keep peace by manning checkpoints going into highways and running after private armed groups to ensure that people will be allowed to vote.

He said the AFP is prohibited from involving in activities related to handling and opening of ballot boxes, counting, tallying, and canvassing of votes, and proclamation of winning candidates during any electoral exercise.

Basically, the bill says that the AFP should maintain a "no touch" policy over ballots, ballot boxes and election paraphernalia, according to Pimentel.

"In past elections, both local and national, reports of armed violence, coercion, ballot snatching, and acts of terrorism directed at voters and supporters of candidates, particularly in the remote areas, have become rampant. The guarantee of a clean, honest and orderly election is essential in any democracy," Pimentel said. (Apple Buenaventura)

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