Duterte asks Comelec to shoulder expenses of public schools during polls

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte has appealed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cover the expenses of public schools used as polling centers.

She raised the issue before the Comelec en banc on Monday, citing the burden placed on public schools as they spend for electricity and repair of damage during elections.

"Hindi pa namin alam kung paano namin matutupad ang pagiging libre ng paggamit ng tubig at kuryente sa aming mga paaralan, at yung mga repairs ng mga nasıra na gamit kapag tapos na ang eleksyon," Duterte said.

"Ito po ay china-charge sa MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) ng paaralan na hindi naman parte ng aming mandato," she added.

[Translation: We still don't know how we can achieve free use of water and electricity in our schools, and the repairs of damaged items when elections are over. These are charged in the MOOE of schools, which are not part of our mandate.]

The DepEd chief said the concern is similar to when schools are being used as evacuation centers.

Comelec utilizes public schools all over the country during elections, specifically classrooms as polling precincts.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia said he was surprised by Duterte's remarks but agreed that poll-related expenses should not be shouldered by DepEd.

"Siyempre 'yun ay hindi naman activity ng DepEd. Nauunawaan ko siya doon. Activity 'yun ng Commission, activity 'yun patungkol sa election and, therefore, marapat na 'yun ay makarna sa pag co-conduct ng halalan," he said.

[Translation: Of course, I understand that this is not the activity of DepEd but the Comelec since it is an election-related activity and, therefore, it is right to include it in the budget for conducting elections.]

Garcia said Comelec will raise the concern to the Department of Budget and Management and study revisions in the Omnibus Election Code.

"Ang solusyon po diyan ay amendment sa provision ng Omnibus Election Code," Garcia said.

"Kung doon pu-pwedeng maisama na mismo yung item na 'yun, automatically may appropriation para sa bagay na 'yun," he added.

[Translation: The solution to that is to amend the provision of the Omnibus Election Code. If that item can be included then, automatically, there is an appropriation for that.]

Garcia also said the budget provided to them only covers the honoraria of teachers and the purchasing of ballot boxes and ballots.

However, the poll chief said these changes may not be done in time for the Oct. 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections.

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said they are still getting an estimate of the damage from past elections before they can determine how much additional funds will be downloaded for their MOOE.

Poa added that the coordination of expenses for evacuation centers is already being done with the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The education chief also asked the poll body to ensure the timely release of the honoraria of the over 826,000 teachers who will serve as electoral board members.