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Marcos Jr. backs voter education in K-12 curriculum

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Marcos Jr. backs voter education in K-12 curriculum
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. speaks in this undated photo.
Office of the Press Secretary

MANILA, Philippines — Citing the importance of an informed vote in choosing the country’s leaders, President Marcos backed yesterday proposals to integrate voter education in the K-12 program.

The inclusion of voter education in the curricula of K-12, tertiary level and the National Service Training Program was among the proposals raised during the 1st National Election Summit held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City.

“As we engage with discussions among our students and the Filipino youth, we likewise promote and encourage them to form and cast an informed vote, as well as discerningly choose the leaders of our society,” Marcos said.

He also stressed the importance of “recalibrating the capacity” of teachers serving during elections.

Marcos urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to immediately act on the several electoral reforms proposed during the consultations with various stakeholders.

“I ask you to open yourselves to the recommendations of our experts and Filipino voters, who are partners in ensuring free, orderly, honest and credible elections,” he told guests and participants of the three-day summit.
With the advent of modern technologies, the President said the government can implement positive reforms and make election result transmission faster and maintain its accuracy.

“Hence, we should ensure accurate and unalterable results so as to maintain the sanctity of the polls and the people’s trust,” Marcos said.

He also lauded the Comelec, led by Chairman George Garcia, for organizing the first-ever election summit, saying it enhanced preparations for the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections in October and future electoral exercises.

Garcia served as Marcos’ election lawyer.

K-12 integration

Comelec is pushing for the integration of voter education to the K-12 curriculum in a bid to inform and educate students about the country’s electoral system and the bad practices during elections. 
Garcia told reporters at a press conference yesterday that it is important for children to get educated, at their young age, about the electoral system in the Philippines, even if they are not yet capable of voting.

“Integration in our present curriculum means, even from Kinder on – we’re not saying who to vote or not – we can immediately teach the wrongs of selling your vote and how to choose the right leaders,” Garcia said in Filipino.

Garcia made the remarks during yesterday’s summit where Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte shared her insights.

He said the Comelec is “willing, ready and open” to all of Duterte’s suggestions which were based on her experiences as a public servant.

In her speech, Duterte shared some important concerns that the Comelec should look into, including her appeal for the poll body to consider giving the teachers’ honoraria ahead of election day and to address the issues on so-called “flying voters.”

“On the part of DepEd, we hope that our teachers will be paid before the elections. Of course, they travel, eat and have other expenses during the days they are serving the country… maybe you can consider giving their compensation in advance when you plan for future elections,” Duterte said.

The Vice President emphasized that giving teachers’ honoraria in advance will prevent the apparent problem that teachers usually encounter, such as having difficulties in getting their honoraria, as she recalled during her school visits that teachers would relay their concerns about the hardships in getting their compensation.

For his part, Garcia said they are open to Duterte’s suggestion, as he emphasized that giving advance payment for teachers is possible as they have done that before, but was questioned by the Commission on Audit (COA) due to some concerns.

“As far as the Comelec is concerned, we can always do anything for the benefit of our teachers. We have done that before, advanced 50 percent. However, many teachers, due to threats and other reasons, have not reported on the day of election,” Garcia said in Filipino.
“But if the Commission on Audit will allow us, we will definitely proceed. The Commission on Elections is not afraid of this, especially if it’s for the benefit of our teachers,” he added.

Digital transformation

In his speech, Comelec Commissioner Nelson Celis thanked those who participated in the three-day election summit, and to those who provided recommendations to the poll body for them to determine the areas that they need to improve for future elections.

Celis added that the digital transformation of Comelec and the election system will be a critical aspect of elections in the future and that stakeholder recommendations “will assist the Comelec in this critical endeavor.”

Allowance

Instead of simply pushing for advance payments, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said the government should ensure better compensation for teachers who will serve as poll workers.

The ACT on Friday reacted to Duterte’s request for Comelec to provide the payments for poll workers in advance to prevent teachers from having to pay out of their pockets.

ACT chairman Vladimer Quetua said that, for the past two elections, teachers already receive their travel allowances even before the conduct of the elections.

“The problem is that it is not enough. There is also no food allowance, so the BEI (board of election inspectors) have to pay for the expenses,” he said in Filipino.

“What is necessary is to increase the travel allowance and provide food allowance because the honorarium is compensation for the service and should not be allocated for food and travel,” he added.

The ACT requested an increase in travel allowance from P2,000 to P3,000 and a grant of P2,500 food allowance in this year’s Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections.

It also proposed an increase in honoraria of BEI chairman from P7,000 to 10,000 and members from P6,000 to P9,000.

“Our poll workers only deserve honoraria and allowances that justly compensate the strenuous and hazardous election duties. If the Congress sees it fit to give P10,000 per day to members of the planned Constitutional Convention, it is all the more justified to grant P10,000 net honorarium to teachers and other election workers who dedicate an average of five to seven days to election service,” said Quetua.

“Since after the 2022 election, inflation has breached the nine percent mark and has continuously increased up to almost nine percent in the last two months. As most affected here are food and transportation prices, it is only appropriate to adjust the travel allowance and give a separate food allowance to poll workers,” he added.

The group challenged President Marcos to deliver on his promise to ensure the welfare of teachers. It also noted his previous decision to veto the proposed bill that would remove the taxes imposed on honoraria provided to poll workers.

Old machines

Meanwhile, Comelec is studying replacing its old machines and coming up with new ones for the May 2025 midterm elections, starting with the creation of the terms of reference by next month.

Garcia told reporters during the summit that they are looking at procuring machines that would merge the voting machines with biometric features such as digital fingerprinting, images and signatures.

He said Marcos is more interested in the direct recording electronic voting machines, which uses touch screen technology more than the current optical mark recognition where voters need to feed their ballots into the vote-counting machines after casting their votes.
“We are discussing in the en banc the so-called merger of biometrics technology with the machines that the Comelec may be able to procure,” Garcia said, as he emphasized that they would need bigger budget allocations from Congress if it pushes through.

“Always, we have to factor the budget. Even if we want a specific technology, but it is expensive, we cannot have them. Hopefully, for 2025, the Comelec will be allowed to acquire new technology and machines,” he added.

Before this, the Comelec had already disclosed in previous occasions that the May 2022 national and local elections should be “the last dance for the VCMs.” –  Robertzon Ramirez, Janvic Mateo

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