“Not only did they have to be resourceful in troubleshooting the machines and in exhausting all possible means to ensure that the voting process continues immediately, but they also had to endure voters’ irk and disappointment in the resulting chaos and long lines in polling precincts.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Public school teachers who were the front liners in the recently concluded midterm elections gave Commission on Elections (Comelec) a failing grade.
Despite Comelec claims that this year’s election is “generally peaceful,” teachers who worked on proved otherwise.
In a press conference on May 14, some teacher-poll workers attested how malfunctioning machines have caused delays specifically the newly introduced voter registration and verification machine (VRVM) and the vote counting machine (VCM), the inadequate election paraphernalia and defective SD cards.
“Palpak talaga yung Comelec. The problems are not only recurring but worsening,” teacher Reynaldo Ga who served as a support staff during the election day, said.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) slammed Comelec for “putting teachers in the line of fire with defective armaments.”
ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez said 68 percent of the total reports they documented had to do with machine and paraphernalia issues.
Martinez said the complaints put into question the ampleness of Comelec’s technical preparations for the elections, and whether the billions spent on acquiring these were worth the taxpayers’ money.
The teachers said Comelec officials only monitored the conduct of elections from their air-conditioned room. It is the teachers and the voters who saw the reality on the ground.
“Not only did they have to be resourceful in troubleshooting the machines and in exhausting all possible means to ensure that the voting process continues immediately, but they also had to endure voters’ irk and disappointment in the resulting chaos and long lines in polling precincts,” lamented Martinez.
The VRVM and the VCM would supposedly help make the election process to be swift and easy. However, teachers said these only made their work more unbearable.
Nestor Reyes of the Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) said VRVMs did not help at all as it only consumed time in the voting process. He said a voter has to try four fingerprints to verify her name in the list. If the name does not appear in the machine, a member of the electoral board had to verify manually from the hard copy of the voters list. He said some of the VRVMs in the school where he was designated also broke down eventually.
Reyes said so much time was consumed in the VRVM that the voting started by 9:00 a.m. The polls opened at 6 a.m. By this time, he said, the lines were long as well as the voters’ waiting time. Some voters were already angry with the delay, he said.
Not only that, Reyes said teachers were already on duty as early as 3:00 a.m. of May 13, some may have finished by 11:00 p.m. of the same day but there are teachers who were still transmitting votes up to the next day, May 14.
Ga said that she made efforts to make the voters’ waiting tolerable such as getting all chairs she could get in other rooms for the voters to sit in, finding room for the toddlers whose mothers were waiting in line and accommodate the senior citizens and pregnant women.
Ga was also the last voter in her precinct just to make sure that all those waiting in line have cast their votes.
But it seems all her efforts were futile as there were still fuming voters who blamed them for the glitches and delays in the voting process.
Despite all these, Reyes and Ga said they understand the ire of the voters. But they also stressed it was the Comelec’s inefficiency because this is the fourth time that the election is automated but the problems in 2010 even worsened.
They added that Comelec is responsible for the heavy workload, harassment and intimidation teacher-poll workers unfairly suffered as frontliners in the election.
“The experience of teacher-poll workers is part of the established dirty and problematic system of elections in the country. We cannot blame the people to question the integrity and credibility of the 2019 midterm polls because clearly, Comelec failed to give them the kind of elections they deserve,” Martinez said.
Where’s the allowance?
Kristhean Navales of the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA) appealed to Comelec to release their allowances immediately.
Navales said that some teachers were told that the allowance would be released on May 28.
There are teachers who have not received even their transportation allowance, Navales added.
Reyes said they have spent their own money for the preparations of the elections. They also spent for their transportation expenses in the trainings held prior May 13.
Martinez said the experiences of the teacher-poll workers and voters have put the credibility of the midterm polls in question.? ?“Teachers have done their best and delivered beyond what is expected of them, as they see poll duty as a nationalist calling. Sadly, however trustworthy and dependable our teachers are, more powerful forces in society will always have the upper hand in the making or breaking of elections,” said Martinez.
Martinez also said that as voters, they are “one with the people in seeking for a clean, honest, and fair elections.”
Rosalio Ayque, Caloocan Federation of Teachers president, also pointed out that the VCM machines are recycled and not Filipino-made.
“Voting machines should be made by Filipinos because it is our votes that are at stake here,” he said.
“We stand with the Filipino people in demanding for justice and accountability behind the people who compromised the integrity of the 2019 elections and denied us of our power and democratic right to choose our next leaders,” Martinez said.