A TEACHERS group on Friday aired concern over the imminent disenfranchisement and legal woes of teachers rendering poll duties in the scheduled May 2010 elections as it asked for clarification from the poll body.

“We are wary with the possible predicament of public school teachers come May 2010,” said Benjo Basas, national chairman of the 30, 000-strong Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC).

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This is due to Section 2 (paragraph b) of Commission on Election (Comelec) Resolution No. 8739 promulgated on December 29, 2009 reiterating that “teachers sitting as chairmen or members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) shall be registered voters of the city or municipality.”

The resolution, which had been implemented for the past two elections, was promulgated in accordance with the Omnibus Election Code and other election laws.

It stated that failure to vote for two consecutive elections would mean deactivation of a voter from the list of voters.

But Basas said the usual practice of appointment as Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) is based on the places of work of the teachers and not to where they are registered.

Basas said before the implementation of the resolution the teachers cast their votes in the precincts where they are assigned as BEIs.

“But due to the resolution, we can no longer do that, since our votes should be cast in the precincts where we are registered as voters,” he added.

As a consequence of the implementation of the resolution many teachers had been deactivated from the list of voters due to failure to vote in our precincts in recent elections.

According to the official, this makes teachers rendering poll duties ineligible to sit as chairmen and members of the BEI and disallowing them to cast their votes this coming elections.

“Teachers rendering poll duties were in a predicament because, first, those who are not registered voters or deactivated from voters’ list but allowed and actually compelled to sit as BEI may face legal liability for committing an election offense,” he said.

These teachers, he added, actually does not have a choice since their names were already submitted to the respective election officers of the Comelec districts in accordance with the January 8, 2010 deadline set by the Resolution No. 8739.

“Second, teachers who are deactivated from the voters’ list should no longer sit as BEI since they are not allowed to vote. And those who are registered voters but will be assigned in precinct where they are not registered may not be able to cast their votes due to 20-minute-limitation of the law should they failed to avail of the local absentee voting privilege.”

“We believe that the Comelec has enough time, power and resources to preempt this possible legal predicament and imminent massive disenfranchisement of public school teachers- the very facilitators of Philippine elections,” Basas said.

“Suffrage is a constitutional right of every citizen, and it is quite ironic that we teachers, the frontline workers to ensure that every Filipino could participate to this democratic exercise will be deprived of this right,” he added. (AH/Sunnex)