ACT: Don't tax honoraria for teachers serving as poll workers

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
ACT: Don't tax honoraria for teachers serving as poll workers
In this file photo taken in May 2018, teachers and poll clerks start tallying votes for the 2018 barangay and SK elections while poll watchers oversee the process at Araullo High School in Manila.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s largest alliance of teachers has called on the Commission on Elections to grant a tax-free honorarium of P10,000 for teachers who will serve as poll workers during the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

The statement by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) followed the Comelec’s announcement of its plan to hike the pay of the electoral board chair, board members and Department of Education supervisor official to P10,000, P8,000 and P6,000, respectively. 

Poll workers with these positions were paid P6,000, P5,000 and P4,000 respectively during the 2022 elections 

The group estimated that imposing a 20% tax deduction on the honoraria will leave teacher-poll workers with a take-home pay of P8,000, P7,200 and P6,400.

"These do not satisfactorily compensate the hard work and dangers faced by our election workers for several days of training and preparations, and more than 24 hours of duty on the day of the manual elections," said Vladimer Quetua, ACT chairperson. 

Quetua also slammed President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. for vetoing the passage of a Congress-approved bill to exempt election workers’ pay from taxes which was "painstakingly lobbied" among lawmakers in 2022.

Around a month into his term as president, Marcos vetoed a bill granting tax exemptions to the allowances and honoraria of election workers, reasoning that their duties make them no different from other workers rendering similar services.

Had Marcos signed the bill into law, "poll workers would have been enjoying substantial election service pay since last May 2022 elections," Quetua added. 

Higher allowances needed

The group also called on Comelec to increase poll workers’ travel allowance to P3,000 and provide an additional food allowance of P2,500.

"With the higher cost of goods now, it’s not fair for teachers to deduct food expenses from their small honorarium during the days that they will render election services," Quetua said in Filipino.

Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, which were last held in May 2018, are conducted through manual voting, which is less expensive than automated elections. 

The country's Omnibus Election Code states that “the employment of teachers as watchers and members of the Board of Election Inspectors is vital to the preservation of the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot.”

Around 600,000 DepEd personnel served as election staff during the 2022 national elections.

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