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700 teachers refuse poll duties in 6 Maguindanao towns

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines—Citing fear for their safety, 700 public school teachers have asked the local office of the Commission on Elections to spare them from additional duties as members of the Boards of Election Tellers in six of Maguindanao’s 36 municipalities during the October 28 barangay elections.

Udtog Tago, Maguindanao provincial election supervisor, told reporters here on Wednesday he has written the Comelec’s central office in Manila about this development and that local election officials planned to have policemen serve in the place of the teachers.

Tago said the teachers based their refusal to serve on the Board of Election Tellers or BET on the “sad experiences” they had at the hands of politicians and their supporters in previous elections.

“The BETs form part of the board of canvassers in the barangay (village) level, that is why the teachers fear for their lives as they are exposed to threats and violence during election time,” he said.

Tago said the teachers who wanted to be spared election duty were from the towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Salipada K. Pendatun, Shariff Aguak, Saidona Mustapha, Datu Piang and Datu Abdullah Sangki, all in the province’s second congressional district. These towns have consistently been on the Comelec’s list of areas of concern.

“I have also forwarded their communiqué to the Comelec en banc in Manila for proper disposal,” he told reporters.

Tago said that as a result of the teachers’ refusal to render election duty, the Comelec office in Maguindanao has drawn up a contingency plan under which police officers would serve on the BETs and BEIs in the affected municipalities.

Meanwhile, Tago said the Comelec would be reshuffling election personnel in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur as a way to enhance the credibility of the upcoming elections.

“The Comelec included this in its game plan to do away with too much familiarization of some election officials with local bets,” he said.

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