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Stop discriminating ACT members in election service!

A press statement by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)
March 6, 2019

Over the last few weeks, teacher-unionists under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) have reported alarming cases of disinformation in various regions, where some local officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) have been declaring the ineligibility of ACT union members to serve as part of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in the upcoming midterm polls. This is yet another attack against teachers’ right to self-organization and a dirty attempt to persecute ACT.

In Central Luzon and Eastern Samar, DepEd officials have purportedly been announcing in meeting with school heads and in teachers’ seminars that ACT members are prohibited from being part of the BEI for the 2019 elections. In Laguna, a document that made rounds among teachers detailed the qualifications of BEI members, which explicitly noted that members of the “Allegiance of Concerned Teachers” are not qualified.

The outright singling out of ACT members in election service has no legal basis. No law or policy allows for the wholesale disqualification of BEI members – especially not on the grounds of their affiliation to any organization, as such would be a case of political discrimination prohibited by the law. Furthermore, barring teachers from serving as poll workers is a violation of R.A. 10756 or the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA) which states that public school teachers shall be prioritized in election service.

This is a vicious attack against teachers’ economic rights. For underpaid teachers, the P6,000 honorarium they receive as workers during elections is a significant addition to their scant income. The accordance of a just compensation to the difficult and perilous job they take on every elections is a product of their determined and consistent effort to push for the enactment of the ESRA, and to prohibit them now from participating as BEIs is to deny them of their hard-earned victory.

This is a malicious strike against teachers’ right to unionize, a clear attempt at union-busting. Such efforts are aimed at forcing teachers to dissociate themselves from our union by stifling their work and compensation.

As the surveillance and harassment suffered by our members continue to intensify, another dirty tactic of vilification and persecution is employed by the state in a futile attempt to enfeeble us and our organization.

We call on DepEd to clarify this issue involving their local officials. DepEd must state for the record if there is such a national order to discriminate ACT members in election service. If so, how is this related to the meeting mentioned by retired DepEd Region 3 Director Torno which was supposedly held between DepEd and the National Police Commission on the government’s counter-terrorism campaign? The central office shall effect measures to correct the unlawful and misinformed pronouncements of its local officials.

We also urge the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to take urgent action to resolve this issue. As the commission with the exclusive authority to appoint or disqualify BEI members, we urge you to provide clarification on this matter.

We demand the immediate termination of all acts of terrorism launched by the state against us in the form of surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and terrorist-tagging of our organization and our members. ACT Philippines and ACT unions are legal and legitimate organizations of teachers, administrative staff, and advocates who have consistently lobbied for and advanced the rights and welfare of education workers. Such are not acts of rebellion or terrorism, but are mere exercises of democracy.

The state, instead of subjecting teachers to intimidation and repression, should honor and dignify teachers for their unparalleled commitment and sacrifice in the fulfillment of their vital role in people’s education amid dire conditions.

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