MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will investigate Election Boards (EBs) who withdrew during the Oct. 30 polls.
A day after the election, the Comelec reported that more than 2,500 teachers in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Abra, and in the Bicol Region backed out of their duty.
“But what about those very very few who on the day of the elections, when the precincts already opened, suddenly withdrew without any notice whatsoever,” Comelec Chairman George Garcia said in a message to reporters.
“Complicating this is their refusal to turn over the election paraphernalia to their replacements for no known reason. This must be investigated to prevent similar incidents to happen as things like this may endanger future electoral exercises,” the poll body chief added.
At the same time, Garcia noted that serving in polls is voluntary and not mandatory.
“Those who withdrew prior to the election, we respect their decisions as it is an absolute right. Election day duty is not mandatory to teachers,” he said.
On the other hand, a group of teachers explained that EBs who withdrew on election day have valid reasons not to report for duty.
“The Comelec must know, on a case-by-case basis, why some teachers suddenly withdrew. We are talking about the same areas that the Comelec has traditionally placed under its control during elections. If the teachers in these areas believe that security is inadequate, then it is a failure of the government,” it said in a statement.
“However, If it can be established that these teachers only intend to sabotage or delay the election, which is very unlikely, then they may be held accountable. But if they withdrew because they felt an imminent threat to their life, health, and safety, the Comelec should recognize it. Poll duties are not compulsory after all,” the group added.
Meanwhile, Garcia said they cannot grant the request of the teachers’ group for overtime pay for poll watchers who served for over 24 hours.
He noted that overtime pay was not included in the budget, EBs are not employees of the Comelec.
“In as much as we would like to give, however, there is this joint COA-DBM (Commission on Audit-Department of Budget and Management) circular which provides that only employees of an agency is entitled to claim overtime,” the Comelec chairman said.
“The teachers who served as electoral board members are not employees of Comelec. Moreover, the budget provided us did not provide for such an item,” he added.
On the other hand, poll body data shows that as of 8 a.m. Thursday, close to 100,000 EBs have already received their honoraria.
Out of the 605,379 teachers who served on election day, some 99,801 of them have been paid. (PNA)