Lower house passes bill making election service voluntary for public school teachers

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading on Friday the bill that would make election service voluntary for public school teachers.

House Bill No. 5412, which will be known as the “Election Service Reform Act,” is entitled “An Act making election service non-compulsory for public school teachers, providing for compensation and other benefits.”

The proposed statute’s will “free school teachers from engaging in compulsory election duties as currently practiced and to open up election service to other government employees, members of the Commission on Election-accredited citizen arms and private citizens of known probity and competence.”

Under the bill, should there be a lack of teachers willing, available or qualified to serve, the Comelec may appoint any registered voter in accordance with and order of preference as provided.

The order of preference is stated as follows: 1) private school teachers; 2) Department of Education’s non-teaching personnel; 3) other national government officials and employees holding regular or permanent positions, excluding members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP); 4) members of the Comelec-accredited citizen’s arms and other Comelec-accredited civil society organizations and non-government organizations; or 5) any citizen of known probity and competence who is not involved with any candidate or political party.

The bill also provides that government employees need not be registered voters of the city or municipality where they wish to serve.

Private school teachers, members of citizen’s arms, and other civil society organization and non-government organizations and any citizen of known probity and competence must be registered voters of the city or municipality where they wish to serve.

In cases where the peace and order situation so requires, only members of the PNP and not the AFP may be deputized as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), Special Board of Election Inspectors (SBEI), Board of Election Tellers (BET) or the Special Board of Election Tellers (SBET).

The bill provides that persons rendering election services shall be entitled to honoraria, travel allowance, and such other benefits as may be granted by the Comelec, at rates to be determined and approved by the Department of Budget and Management, subject to existing accounting, budgeting and auditing rules and regulations.

Such honoraria and allowances shall be paid not more than 15 days after the date of election, and the rates shall be reviewed, when necessary, by the Comelec and the DBM.

A minimum of five days service credit shall accrue to all government employees serving as members of the BEI, SBEI, BET or SBET. Other benefits shall include death and/or medical assistance for election-related risks at rates to be determined by the Comelec and the DBM.

The measure also provides for legal assistance and an equitable legal indemnification package and provisions for claims for persons rendering election services.

The legal assistance and indemnification shall not cover any action or suit initiated by a person rendering election service in one’s personal capacity or on behalf of the Comelec, unless such action, proceeding, or claim was authorized by the Comelec. (PNA- Cielito M. Reganit)

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