Melo doubts teachers' mass leave on election day

by Karen Reyes-Caringal, ANC

Posted at Nov 09 2009 10:03 PM | Updated as of Nov 11 2009 07:55 AM

MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo doubts the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) will be able to carry out its threat to stage a mass leave by its 30,000 members on election day next year.

ACT is demanding that teachers rendering poll duty each be given P2,000 per day.

But Melo says they can only afford to pay P1,000 to each teacher.

"Alam niyo naman 'yung mga grupong ganoon, they always implicate their numbers.  (But) I don't think (they) are so mercenary and unpatriotic that they will hold the entire country hostage and maantala 'yung ating election.  (You know those groups always implicate their numbers.  I don't think (they) are so mercenary and unpatriotic that they will hold the entire country hostage and delay the elections)," Melo told ANC's Top Story on Monday.
         
Melo also said they did seek an increase in teachers' pay, but this was not approved.
         
"Wala na pong negotiation sa pay dahil na-reject na po ng Budget Commission.  (There will be no more negotiations on the pay since this has been rejected by the Budget Commission)," Melo added.
         
ACT also urges additional protection for the teachers.
         
But the poll chief says automated elections have greatly minimized the risk faced by teachers doing poll service.
         
"Insofar as security is concerned, they will not be exposed to harassment and threats that they used to face in the past because they will not be doing the counting.  Everything will be by machine so they will not be harassed by the candidates or the watchers," Melo explained.
         
Both the poll body and the ACT are willing to hold a dialogue.

Still, Melo says teachers who do carry out the threat to stage a mass leave could face dismissal and even criminal charges.