Comelec, DepEd, PAO sign MOA for BSKE

Credit to Author: Rhodina Villanueva| Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2023 00:00:00 +0800

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has signed a memorandum with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to fix the issue of election expenses and provide legal assistance to teachers for the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) on Oct. 30.

During yesterday’s signing of the memorandum of agreement, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte asked the Comelec to shoulder public schools’ operating expenses during elections.

“Part of my wish list is to have no more expenses for the use of electricity and water in our schools during the elections. As of now, it is being charged to our MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) despite not being part of our mandate,” Duterte said.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia agreed with Duterte, saying that expenses should be charged to the budget of the elections.

“All along, I thought it was for free. I just learned it is being charged to DepEd. That is unfair,” he said.

Public schools are being utilized as voting centers during elections, with classrooms serving as polling precincts.

As for legal assistance, Garcia said teachers serving as members of the Electoral Boards are vulnerable to being charged with numerous election offenses or administrative complaints.

“That’s why legal assistance is the best defense against these kinds of attacks against them,” he noted.

Despite a petition to postpone the BSKE in Negros Oriental due to security-related concerns and the assassination of governor Roel Degamo on March 4, the Comelec yesterday announced that the polls will proceed as scheduled.

“To our kababayans in Negros Oriental, do not worry. The Oct. 30 BSKE will proceed on the same day the elections will be conducted in the entire country,” Garcia said at a press conference.

The Comelec’s decision was based on the desire of the province’s voters, as well as recommendations from the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“We will place the entire province under Comelec control. To our recollection, it seems this is the first time it will be placed under Comelec control,” Garcia said.

“Comelec will ensure that the status quo as much as possible will be in (place)… In case there is slight strictness, we apologize. But this is for the benefit of everyone so that we can ensure that the people can cast their votes on election day,” he added.

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos on Monday challenged BSKE candidates to undergo a voluntary drug test.

“It is not a requirement to have a drug test, not a requirement by the Comelec but for me, because of the seriousness of the drug problem, it is a global problem. I hope all those running as barangay captains prove that you are an enemy of drugs,” Abalos said at a press conference.