'Demoralized': Some teachers to no longer serve in future elections after Marcos veto

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 31 2022 05:56 PM

MANILA - A number of teachers have decided or are considering to stop serving as poll workers in the coming elections after Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vetoed a bill seeking to exempt their election allowances from being taxed.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers said on Sunday many teachers were dismayed, demoralized, and angered by Marcos’s junking of the measure that would have reimbursed them between P1,800 to P2,400.

Roel Mape, 42, a teacher at Apolonio Samson Elementary School in Quezon City, told ABS-CBN News they had been anticipating the extra money to help defray bills and fund preparations for the return of classes.

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"Nabulaga kami. Parang niyanig kami ng 7.3 o mas mahigit pa," Mape said. 

"Ang laking frustration doon sa mga teachers na nagpapakabayani tuwing eleksyon dahil hindi ganoon kadali magserve sa eleksyon—pagod, puyat, lalo na ang gutom na dinanas namin noong nakaraan,' he added.

Mape has served in 7 national elections in his 19 years of teaching.

During the last May polls where he was election board chair, he said they already received their allowance after a week and had to shell out their own money for food.

Feeling betrayed by Marcos’s veto, Mape said he plans to take a break from serving as a poll worker, since this is already voluntary.

"Ako personally ay hindi muna ako magse-serve sa mga susunod na eleksyon kung ganito ang sistema na pinapataw," he said. 

"Ang hamon ngayon sa Comelec at sa gobyerno ay sino ‘yong mga ihi-hire nila na pwedeng pumalit sa kagalingan ng mga guro na magpadaloy tuwing eleksyon," he added.

'INSENSITIVE'

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ACT, which Mape is a member of, said it was not yet calling on teachers to boycott serving in future polls, but will consult with its members on what to do next.

The group slammed Marcos’s veto as insensitive to teachers.

"Nakakalungkot, nakakadismaya, nakaka-demoralize lalo sa part ng mga EB at guro ang pag-veto," said Rizza Bantilan, a teacher at Ignacio Villamor High School in Manila, during ACT’s online press conference on Sunday.

Grace Abellar, who teaches at the Kabugwason Elementary School in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, lamented that aside from the 24-hour duty on election day, teachers also had to augment the lack of equipment and tools in the polling centers.

"Para sa mga guro, ‘yong allowance na kanilang tatanggapin mula sa Comelec ay hindi sapat para ma-compensate ‘yong hirap, ‘yong effort na kanilang ibigay. But at the end of the day the teachers still wanted to serve this election," she said.

"Subalit parang ‘yong ating pamahalaan ay insensitive sa mga kalagayan, kahirapan ng guro na ‘yong konting hinihingi lamang na sana ‘yong tax na kinaltas sa maliit allowance na kanilang ibigay ay sana ibalik sa mga teachers," she added.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition also expressed shock at the veto, saying teachers like ordinary workers already pay taxes in various forms.

"Ang ating panawagan, buwisan ang mayayaman at bilyonaryo at habulin ang mga tumatakas sa obligasyon sa estado," said TDC national chairperson Benjo Basas.

REVERSE VETO

TDC, ACT, and other groups have been pushing for the bill in Congress for 4 years.

ACT chairman Vladimer Quetua said they would also urge more teachers to express their dissatisfaction with the veto to their legislators.

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said they will work with other proponents of the bill in the Senate and House of Representatives to garner the 2/3 congressional votes needed to reverse Marcos’s veto.

"Sampal ito sa mga guro," she said in the press con.

"Hindi niyo ba alam, President Marcos Jr. na sa ginawa niyong ito, 1 buwan pa lang kayo sa puwesto ay parang sinampal niyo na ‘yong mga guro na nagpakahirap, nagpakapagod at talagang binubuwis ang buhay. Ibinubuwis nila ang buhay para ipanatili ang honest, peaceful election," she added.

Castro added she was confident they could get enough support for the reversal considering the bill had already hurdled Congress.

Sen. Win Gatchalian, who pushed the tax exemption bill in the Senate, told reporters in a text message that he hasn’t read Marcos’s veto message yet.

"All I can say for now that moving forward, the executive and legislative branches should improve its collaboration and coordination mechanisms through the LEDAC and PLLO to avoid time wastage," Gatchalian wrote.

Marcos, in his veto message, said the tax exemption was "inequitable" towards others performing similar activities.

However, ACT said the P700,000 to P1 billion estimated savings from removing the tax exemption was very minimal.

Over 647,000 teaching and non-teaching personnel served in the 2022 elections.

Aside from the base honoraria rate ranging from P3,000 to P7,000 depending on the post, poll workers also received a P2,000 transportation allowance, P1,500 communication allowance, P500 anti-COVID-19 allowance, and medical and accident insurances.

The TRAIN law in 2018 first imposed a 5 percent tax on the allowances of election workers.

The Comelec increased the P2,000 honoraria in May, but was only enough to cover the now 20 percent income tax.

The poll body also approved an additional P2,000 pay for teachers who worked overtime last May.

Teachers also slammed a 20% tax imposed on their transportation allowance for trainings in the run-up to the polls. 

--With a report from Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News