Issue of May 12, 2019
Mt. Province

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Baguio city public school head never fails to render poll duty
by PNA with reports from Hasreel Sandee Gano

Baguio Central School Principal Esther Litilit has served the Department of Education for 31 years now – seven years as a teacher and 24 years as principal – moving from one elementary school to another.

As a teacher, she never failed to serve as a poll clerk and as a supervising officer when she was promoted as principal.

She said she is always willing to serve the country during elections.

“We are very willing to serve because it is innate to most of us teachers to serve during elections,” Litilit said.

She said it is automatic for most of them to serve during elections, not only because they are required but also because they are willing to give their time.

Despite the passage of Republic Act 10756 or the “Act rendering election service non-compulsory for public school teachers, authorizing the appointment of other qualified citizens, providing for compensation and other benefits,” Litilit said most of the teachers see the election as an opportunity to serve the country.

The law provides that electoral boards composed of a chairperson and two members are all public school teachers who are willing and available to render poll duty.

However, if public school teachers are unwilling to serve, a private school teacher, national government employee, DepEd non-teaching personnel, other national government officials and employees holding regular position, members of the commission-accredited citizen arm or civil society organization, or any registered voter of known integrity and competence who is not connected with any candidate or political party, may do poll duties.

“Rendering duty on election day is never easy because we start as early as 5 a.m. and finish at 2 a.m. the next day,” she said, noting that there had been times when they were required to render almost 48 hours of duty.

Sadly, Litilit said some teachers had been hurt or worst, lost their lives, while performing their duties due to poll-related violence.

As part of the electoral board, teachers stay in polling precincts, making sure that people who are qualified to cast their votes are able to do so. When voting was still done manually, they canvassed votes until the wee hours or days after elections.

Now, teachers have to make sure that the vote counting machines (VCM) in their respective precincts are properly working. They make their reports about every specific incident or issue they encounter in their precinct.

She said the services they rendered then and now are very different.

“When I was a clerk, it was really hard because when (the voting) was manual, there are so many papers and I have to check all the names of each candidate one by one compared today where the job of the teachers on election is lighter,” she said.

As principal serving as supervisor, Litilit said the responsibility is also huge as they make sure that the classrooms are prepared, the facilities are complete, and peace and order in the polling center is maintained. Teachers also receive the VCM for final testing and sealing when delivered to the polling center, before these are used on election day.

“We supervise the physical aspect of the school, the rooms that will be used. We will also check the machines and we will supervise the peace and order at the voting area,” she said.
Based on DepEd data, 5,523 Cordillera teachers will serve on election day.

As part of its preparation, the DepEd conducted regular training to teachers, equipping them with the knowhow to manage the VCM and what to do in cases of malfunction or error.

“We wanted to give them (teachers) all information, guidelines, and protocols regarding election,” said DepEd Usec. for Administrative Services Alain Pascua during DepEd’s Election Task Force’s caravan in the Cordillera last May 6.

He said teachers continuously undergo skills training and courses to further guide them in the upcoming election.

They are also given an honorarium and transportation allowance for rendering election service. The chairperson of the electoral boards gets P6,000 while the members get P5,000. The DepEd supervisor official receives P4,000 and the support staff member gets P2,000. They get P1,000 transportation allowance, a mere pittance considering the risks they encounter, especially in areas identified as election hotspots.

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