A MILITANT teachers group on Saturday called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to look into the impending massive disenfranchisement of teachers this coming May elections.

Benjamin Valbuena, national vice president of the 30,000-strong Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), issued the call after his group received reports that some local Comelec offices has already declared the teachers who have not voted in their registered precincts in the past two elections, as deactivated voters.

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“This is preposterous for these teachers have been voting in the precincts where they were assigned as Board of Election Inspectors. This problem was already resolved during former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos’s time which issued Comelec Resolution No. 7833 in the May 2007 elections. The resolution allowed the teachers to transfer their voter’s registration from where they reside, to the place where they work,” Valbuena said.

According to him, the present actions of the poll body will lead to massive disenfranchisement of the teachers as voters.

He cited the case in the Eastern and Western Districts of the City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan where he said more than half of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) submitted by the District Supervisor have been declared as unregistered voters by the local Comelec, and therefore cannot serve as BEIs.

The Omnibus Election Code states that BEIs should be registered voters.

Valbuena added that this will most likely be the scenario in most parts of the country, especially in the urban centers like Quezon City and Manila.

He stated that, often, the teachers live far away from their place of work, but they serve in the precincts assigned to them, which are usually their schools.

“Thus in the past elections,” he said. “They are allowed to cast their votes in the precincts where they serve as BEIs, for it would be difficult for them to take time out of their poll duties to travel and vote at the precincts where they are registered as voters.”

This means that these teachers, who will not be allowed to serve as BEIs, will also not be allowed to vote, the ACT official added.

“What is alarming is that the teacher will not be allowed to exercise their right to suffrage, and this is unacceptable!”

To prevent such a scenario from taking place, the group said Comelec chairman Jose Melo should immediately address the impending massive disenfranchisement of teachers.

“We urge the Comelec to recognize the great contributions of the teachers in the past elections, and not just scramble to make the glitch-riddled Automated Election work this coming May 2010,” Valbuena said.

About 280,000 teachers and technical staff are set to do poll duties in May, according to the Department of Education. The figure is way below the previous elections' 500,000.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said this is due to the use of automated technology in the upcoming election which requires less human intervention. (AH/Sunnex)