PASIG CITY, March 8, 2019 – The Department of Education (DepEd) expresses its disappointment with the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) over its statement alleging that local DepEd officials have been declaring the ineligibility of ACT union members to be part of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) in the upcoming midterm polls.
Stop discriminating ACT members in election service!
Over the last few weeks, teacher-unionists under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) have reported alarming cases of disinformation in various regions, where some local officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) have been declaring the ineligibility of ACT union members to serve as part of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in the upcoming midterm polls. This is yet another attack against teachers’ right to self-organization and a dirty attempt to persecute ACT.
In Central Luzon and Eastern Samar, DepEd officals have purportedly been announcing in meeting with school heads and in teachers’ seminars that ACT members are prohibited from being part of the BEI for the 2019 elections. In Laguna, a document that made rounds among teachers detailed the qualifications of BEI members, which explicitly noted that members of the “Allegiance of Concerned Teachers” are not qualified.
The outright singling out of ACT members in election service has no legal basis. No law or policy allows for the wholesale disqualification of BEI members—especially not on the grounds of their affiliation to any organization, as such would be a case of political discrimination prohibited by the law. Furthermore, barring teachers from serving as poll workers is a violation of R.A. 10756 or the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA) which states that public school teachers shall be prioritized in election service.
This is a vicious attack against teachers’ economic rights. For underpaid teachers, the Php6,000 honorarium they receive as workers during elections is a significant addition to their scant income. The accordance of a just compensation to the difficult and perilous job they take on every elections is a product of their determined and consistent effort to push for the enactment of the ESRA, and to prohibit them now from participating as BEIs is to deny them of their hard-earned victory.
This is a malicious strike against teachers’ right to unionize, a clear attempt at union-busting. Such efforts are aimed at forcing teachers to dissociate themselves from our union by stifling their work and compensation.
As the surveillance and harassment suffered by our members continue to intensify, another dirty tactic of vilification and persecution is employed by the state in a futile attempt to enfeeble us and our organization.
We call on DepEd to clarify this issue involving their local officials. DepEd must state for the record if there is such a national order to discriminate ACT members in election service. If so, how is this related to the meeting mentioned by retired DepEd Region 3 Director Torno which was supposedly held between DepEd and the National Police Commission on the government’s counter-terrorism campaign? The central office shall effect measures to correct the unlawful and misinformed pronouncements of its local officials.
We also urge the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to take urgent action to resolve this issue. As the commission with the exclusive authority to appoint or disqualify BEI members, we urge you to provide clarification on this matter.
We demand the immediate termination of all acts of terrorism launched by the state against us in the form of surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and terrorist-tagging of our organization and our members. ACT Philippines and ACT unions are legal and legitimate organizations of teachers, administrative staff, and advocates who have consistently lobbied for and advanced the rights and welfare of education workers. Such are not acts of rebellion or terrorism, but are mere exercises of democracy.
The state, instead of subjecting teachers to intimidation and repression, should honor and dignify teachers for their unparalleled commitment and sacrifice in the fulfilment of their vital role in people’s education amid dire conditions.Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines
Reading closely ACT’s statement, we see its internal inconsistencies, and the resulting disinformation and malicious imputations. It acknowledges in the statement itself that their allegations are not validated. It is based on “reported”, and “purported” acts. The name of the organization they cite (Allegiance of Concerned Teachers) is not even their organization.
Yet based on its bare allegations, it proceeds to condemn the acts as “yet another attack against teachers’ right to self-organization and a dirty attempt to persecute ACT.”
Through misleading allegations, they craftily besmirch DepEd, a government agency of which they are part as teachers. It is saddening that such besmirching of the institution through bare, at times outrightly false allegations, is being done by ACT in statements like these both inside and outside the country, and in the rallies they conduct.
Before condemning, ACT should come forward with specific and validated incidents when alleged DepEd local officials prohibited election service of their members who are public school teachers.
There had been no issuance by DepEd Central Office prohibiting members of ACT or any teachers’ unions/associations and announcing their ineligibility to serve as part of the electoral boards in the upcoming midterm polls.
It is the Alliance of Concerned Teachers that should clarify whether or not its members are, at the same time, members of the ACT Teachers Party-list because they appear to be intimately connected. For instance, current ACT Teachers Party-list second nominee Benjamin Valbuena used to serve as National Chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.
Such distinction is relevant in the matter of membership in the electoral boards. If teachers are members of the ACT Teachers Party-list, then the disqualification under Article IX-C Section 8 of the Constitution may apply.
The said provision states that “political parties, or organizations or coalitions registered under the party-list system, shall not be represented in the voter’s registration boards, boards of election inspectors, boards of canvassers, or other similar bodies. However, they shall be entitled to appoint poll watchers in accordance with the law.”
We emphasize that it is the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), through the Election Officers, which shall constitute and appoint the electoral boards. Thus, the clarification on this matter is best addressed by ACT to COMELEC.
Relatedly, it may be asked whether membership of public school teachers and other government employees in an electoral party, such as party-lists, does not violate the laws prohibiting civil servants from engaging in partisan political activities. Again, this is an issue best addressed to COMELEC, and the Civil Service Commission.