Baguio public school head never fails to render poll duty

BAGUIO CITY– Esther Litilit, a principal at Baguio Central School, has served the Department of Education (DepEd) for 31 years and still counting– seven years as a teacher and 24 years as principal, moving from one elementary school in Baguio to another.
As a teacher, she never fails to serve as a poll clerk on election day and as a supervising officer when she was promoted as principal.
Counting the number of years in government, she is always willing to serve the country during elections– the time when rich and poor become equal in casting their votes.
“We are very willing to serve because it is innate to most of us teachers that we will serve on elections,” Litilit told Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Litilit said it is automatic for most of them to serve during elections, not only because they are required but because they are willing to give their time and energy.
In spite of the passage of Republic Act 10756, or the “Act rendering election service non-compulsory for public school teachers, authorizing the appointment of other qualified citizens, providing for compensation and other benefits”, Litilit said most of the teachers see every election as an opportunity to serve the country anew.
The law provides that electoral boards composed of the chairperson and two members are all public school teachers who are willing and available to render poll duty.
However, if public school teachers are unwilling to serve, a private school teacher, national government employee, DepEd non-teaching personnel, other national government officials and employees holding regular positions, members of the commission-accredited citizen arm or civil society organization or any registered voter of known integrity and competence who is not connected to any candidate or political party, may do poll duty.
Teachers’ sacrifice
“Rendering duty on election day is never easy because we start as early as 5 a.m. and finish at 2 a.m. the next day,” she said, noting that there had been times when they were required to render almost 48 duty hours to fulfill their task.
Sadly, Litilit said some teachers had been hurt or worst, lost their lives, while doing election duty due to poll-related violence.
As part of the electoral board, teachers stay in polling precincts, making sure that persons who are qualified to cast their votes are able to. They canvassed votes until the wee hours of the morning or the day after when the election was still manual.
Now, teachers have to make sure that the vote counting machines (VCM) in their respective precincts are properly working. They make their reports about every specific incident or issue they encounter in their precincts.
She said the services they rendered before and at present are very different.
“When I was a clerk, it was really hard because before it was all manual, there are so many papers and I have to check all the names of each candidate one by one compared today that the job of the teachers on election is lighter,” she recalled.
As principal serving as supervisor, Litilit said the responsibility is also big–making sure that the classrooms are well prepared, the facilities complete and peace and order in the polling center maintained. Teachers also receive the VCM for final testing and sealing when delivered to the polling center, before they are used on election day.
“We supervise the physical aspect of the school, the rooms that will be used. We will also check the machines and we will supervise the peace and order at the voting area,” she said.
According to DepEd data, a total of 5,523 Cordillera teachers will serve on election day.
DepEd prepares teachers
As part of its preparation, the DepEd conducts regular training to teachers, equipping them with the know-how to manage the VCM and what to do in cases of malfunctions or errors.
“We (DepEd) wanted to give them (teachers) all of the information, guidelines and protocols regarding the election,” said DepEd Undersecretary for Administrative Services Alain Pascua in an interview on the sidelines of the DepEd’s Election Task Force’s (ETF) caravan in the Cordillera last May 6.
He said teachers continuously undergo skills training and courses to further guide them for the upcoming election.
Teachers are also given an honorarium and transportation allowance for rendering election service.
The chairperson of Electoral Boards gets PHP6,000 while the members get PHP5,000.
The DepEd Supervisor Official receives PHP4,000 and the support staff get PHP2,000. They also get PHP1,000 transportation allowance– a mere pittance considering the risks they encounter, especially in areas identified as election hotspots. **(with reports from Hasreel Sandee Gano/PNA)

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