Guanzon: Comelec Chair Andres Bautista Can be Charged with “Estafa”.

Controversial Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista once again faces backlash after half of school teachers who worked as election officers during the May presidential elections said they will not work again on Barangay Elections. The reason, the teachers said they were not paid on time.

“If they have a choice, most of the teachers would opt not to do their duty,” Teachers’ Dignity Coalition national chairman Benjo Basas disclosed on Wednesday.

Citing the Election Service Reform Act which was signed by former President Benigno Aquino III in April, Basas said that public school teachers have now the option whether or not to participate as BEIs or BETs in the elections.

The Comelec was reported as having failed to pay at least 76,000 teachers, 15 days after the presidential elections.

As of Wednesday, Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the poll body has yet to pay 194 teachers who served as BEIs in the recent polls.

“As of today, the director of finance reported that 194 are not yet paid,” Guanzon said in a text message.

Even with just a small number still unpaid, Guanzon said in a recent interview that a delay of more than 15 days is considered a “criminal offense”.

“Delay of more than 15 days in paying the BEI teachers is a criminal offense,” Guanzon recently said, adding that Comelec chair Andres Bautista can be charged with “estafa”.

Estafa is a criminal offense wherein a person defrauds another by unfaithfulness, deciet, and fraudulent means.

Basas said their latest monitoring of payments by the poll body to the remaining unpaid teachers was on June 8. And so far, their organization has yet to receive any complaints regarding the matter.

Basas expressed hope that the law allowing optional election duties of public school teachers will be implemented during the Baranggay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on October 31.

“We anticipate that it would be implemented for the coming barangay elections on October,” he said, adding that it is a welcoming gesture to allow them to “say no” to poll duties.

Guanzon earlier said that she and her colleagues were prompted to issue a memo against Bautista after finding out that the teachers’ honoraria had been delayed for more than a month.

For the May 2016 polls, the chairperson and members of the BEIs as well as support staff members are entitled to receive a per diem at the rate of P1,000 a day for three days; P500 each for the verification and sealing of the Book of Voters, for the final testing and sealing of the vote counting machines, and for transportation allowance; and P2,000 for undergoing training for a total per diem of P6,500.

Bautista has lamented earlier that one of the reasons why he pushed for postponing the Barangay and SK polls was due to concerns that they have to increase the number of public school teachers serving as BETs.

Bautista, cousin of former president Benigno Aquino III, is facing criticisms left and right and has been asked to step down as COMELEC chairman.

It is not clear if who will file estafa charges against Bautista, but Guanzon reiterated that Bautista’s action is subject to legal action. /Fanny Jalacjac/

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