‘Exploitation’-A A +A
Sunday, October 27, 2013
PUBLIC school teachers, under the law, are deputized as poll workers and tasked to supervise the whole process, from opening up to the closing of polling precincts.
In between, teachers must ensure that the choice of every voter has been cast and counted. But in order for us teachers to do this, we expose ourselves to all sorts of dangers--health risks, harassment, legal charges and physical attack.
The past elections were witness to the violence and danger our teachers suffer. Every election, there were reports of teachers who were hurt, intimidated, met accidents and worst, killed in line of duty. There were heroic stories like the teacher who died and burned along with a classroom in Batangas, a DepEd supervisor who was killed after elections in Maguindanao, a group of teachers who survived the attacking armed men in Lanao del Norte, a teacher in Pangasinan who was run over by a bus and died, a Valenzuela teacher who was hit by a van that made her paralyzed for several months and countless other narratives. All of them faced the danger in the name of service and to ensure democracy.
The list continues, teachers who suffer mental and physical fatigue for working more than 24 hours--without a single minute of sleep. The elections may have been finished the following day, but not the teachers’ suffering. The ire of losing candidates has traditional targeted poll workers, exposing the hapless teachers to violence and election-related cases. The losers would never concede and would always argue that they were cheated by their opponents, with the teachers facilitating the fraud. Most often, teachers have to face these problems alone. DepEd legal assistance is not readily available while Comelec serves as prosecutors, against the teachers.
Yet at the end of all these sufferings, teachers will only get a very minimal compensation--not even enough for transportation, paracetamol, food and energy drink to keep us awake, often, the honorarium comes very late, as late as a month or more.
These are the reasons we push for optional election duties. We cannot refuse the assignment to sit as election workers, even if this task might kill us or expose us to harm. We cannot negotiate with the Comelec on the amount we want to be paid. We can never demand for a lawyer to defend us when we are in trouble. The mandated poll duty of public school teachers is a legal excused for the government to perpetuate exploitation. –Teachers’ Dignity Coalition, Quezon City
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 28, 2013.