“Her words demean those who, for decades, have been guarding the sanctity of our votes, oftentimes at great risk to their security. “
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “Irresponsible and illogical,” this is the response of ACT Teachers’ Partylist representative Antonio Tinio to theComelec election officer’s statement that teachers who are members of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) are “either stupid or forgetful.”
Lawyer Aimee Perolino-Ampoloquio, Davao City election officer, was quoted in a news report saying, “It’s either they are forgetful or they are stupid” referring to teachers who are having difficulties in operating the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines during its final testing and sealing (FTS) on May 6, Monday.
Several problems were reported during the said FTS, including the difficulty of the BEIs in operating the PCOS machines. This, despite the trainings given to them, Ampoloquio claimed .
Ampoloquio’s statement was condemned by a teacher himself, Tinio. He said that errors found in Davao and in other FTS centers nationwide are due to the PCOS machines, not the teachers.
Reports gathered by poll watchdog Kontra Daya revealed failures to initialize due to compact flash card errors, ballot rejection, shutdown due to thermal printer issues, or unexplained freezing. The information technology experts from Kontra Daya had predicted that the machines would encounter errors due to long storage and disuse, in addition to the errors inherent in the untested technology.
Tinio pointed out that Comelec officials who lay the blame on teachers for the PCOS errors display ignorance on the scope of BEIs’ roles with regards the machines or are merely looking for scapegoats to cover up for the unreliable technology. “These errors will remain until Comelec follows the AES Law and opens the PCOS up to public scrutiny, mainly through the source code review.”
Tinio added, “Until then, neither Apolonio nor any local or national Comelec official has the right to blame teachers, its deputies, for these errors.”
Tinio also blamed the Comelec for not providing sufficient trainings or compensation for the teachers hired as BEIs. He said the poll body requires at least one member of the BEI to be IT-capable. However, he added, those who sat in Comelec’s”trainings” or “refresher courses” reported that the trainers just read or repeated what was written in the manual.
“In 2010, Comelec, on paper at least, required a PCOS technician for every precinct provided by Smartmatic. This year, it didn’t. Reports have reached us that technicians from Smartmatic or outside sources are paid more than the BEIs. This is discriminatory,” Tinio said in a statement.
Compensatory pay for teachers’ hired as BEIs even decreased. From P4,300 ($107.5) during the 2010 elections, it was lowered to P4,000 ($100) this 2013 elections. Tinio said in a television interview, their position remains that teachers hired as BEIs should be receiving P6,000 ($150) plus extra pay should there be any remaining funds from the Comelec.
“In 2004, teachers received P4,000 as compensation. In 2010 it became P4,300 then it was lowered again in 2013. But the BEIs’ work has never changed. It is even more difficult now that precincts have been clustered, therefore, more voters are being facilitated by the teachers. Before during the manual system, there were only a maximum of 200 voters in one precinct, now in the AES, at least 1,000 voters had to be assisted by BEIs because of clustered precincts,” Tinio said in the interview.
Tinio also pointed out the sacrifices of teachers during elections, to the point of risking their own lives to protect the ballots.
Finally, Tinio urged Comelec to hold Amploquio, who suggested that the Davao BEIs must be questioned, liable for her unethical and groundless attitude.
“Her words demean those who, for decades, have been guarding the sanctity of our votes, oftentimes at great risk to their security. This is highly reprehensible as she, the top local election official in Davao City, cast shadows on the capability and integrity of teachers in general,” Tinio said.