The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) questioned the authority of the Department of Education (DepEd) to require teacher-members to the Electoral Board to submit comprehensive reports on the conduct of the 2019 midterm polls.
“We are officially on vacation as teachers during April and May. Why is DepEd obliging us to submit election reports to them when our election services are hired and paid for by COMELEC? The tasks that DepEd is giving to teacher-poll workers are not even connected to teaching,” argued ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez.
Martinez further noted that the Memorandum of Agreement signed by DepEd and COMELEC last January 29, 2019, did not indicate that DepEd will assign additional tasks to teacher-poll workers.
“Our primary duty during this election period is to facilitate the elections. That is an enormous task to take on and is more than enough to keep us occupied on May 13. Teachers cannot and should not be burdened with more work,” furthered Martinez.
Aside from the added work, ACT laments that DepEd is essentially forcing them to render yet another form of unpaid labor as such is not covered by their poll honoraria. Even worse, Martinez added, is that teachers are made to look for their resources to comply with DepEd’s demands. She cited that teachers in Cagayan de Oro were told by DepEd to ‘borrow phones from loved ones’ during the training for the agency’s electoral task force yesterday. Their internet data, on the other hand, will be shelled out by teachers and will only be reimbursed later after reports have been submitted.
Not really optional
ACT also hit DepEd for ‘twisting’ the definition of ‘optional’ when the latter said only one member of the electoral board is required to submit the aforementioned reports.
“Optional means you can choose to either do it or forego such option. Such is not the case here as DepEd is imposing this added job to thousands of teacher-electoral board members,” lambasted Martinez.
ACT said that even DepEd officials on the ground validate that the reporting for DepEd’s electoral task force is not optional, and is a direct order to teacher-poll workers from the agency.
“I raised this issue during the DepEd training I attended and cited DepEd’s press release that it was optional, but the DepEd official leading the training told me off and I quote ‘optional is different from directive, and since this was memorandized by DepEd, we have to comply,’ which naturally caused an uproar among us. We can’t even go to the toilet due to the intense workload during elections, now DepEd wants to give us more work?” raised ACT Region X Union President Ophelia Tabacon.
Tabacon added that DepEd met their protests during the seminar with a snide remark, saying that teachers voluntarily chose to serve as members of the electoral board and should therefore not complain.
ACT also cited DepEd’s attempt to ‘stifle their right to free speech and air out their grievances.”
“They told us that previously, they hear teachers’ concerns through media reports, which seemed to have irked some DepEd officials as it supposedly makes the agency appear oblivious and incompetent in doing their jobs of taking care of teachers,” bared ACT Region I Secretary Florante Lachica.
Listen to teachers
ACT urged DepEd to ‘take a break from tinkering with their gadgets and go down from their ivory towers’ so they may hear teachers’ voices from the ground.
“You will never fully understand our situation unless you truly listen to teacher-poll workers. You have to understand that not all of us have access to smartphones and mobile apps, nor have the savvy to use one,” hit Martinez.
ACT maintained that adding duties to already overworked teacher-poll workers defeats DepEd’s proclaimed intention to provide assistance during the precarious election season.
“A project, if it does not take into consideration the realities of its target beneficiaries, is bound to fail. Teacher-poll workers have tried to get this message across to DepEd, but we have only been met with sarcasm and arrogance,” criticized Martinez.
ACT additionally noted that DepEd is ‘overdoing their role’ in the elections at the expense of teachers, citing that the comprehensive reports the agency requires are beyond what poll watchdogs and the COMELEC itself do. The group further urged the agency to drop the additional tasks and instead simply open an accessible line for teachers who need assistance.
“If DepEd is so eager to act as a major poll monitoring body, it should employ the services of those who are not busy on election day. Don’t bother teacher-poll workers who are already performing laborious and often dangerous poll duties,” concluded Martinez.