DepEd questions changes in BEI composition in Davao City

The Commission on Elections tried to downplay the problems, saying it does not have the monopoly of the electoral process and that the holding of honest, orderly, and peaceful elections lies in the public's vigilance and participation.

The changes in the composition of the boards of election inspectors in particular have also sparked suspicions that these were possibly done for financial considerations.

A week before Election Day, officials of the Department of Education and Comelec exchanged accusations over the reported alteration of at least 52 members of the BEIs.

Dr. Eva Antipuesto, assistant schools division superintendent, claimed there was procedural flaw in Comelec’s decision to change the BEI composition in three districts in Davao City.

Antipuesto alleged that in District 1 Comelec "reshuffled and replaced" BEI members recommended by DepEd.

DepEd also accused the Comelec of delaying the issuance of the appointment papers of at least 75 teachers in the same district.

DepEd, however, announced later that 33 of the 52 teachers were reinstated and that the appointment papers were released.

Antipuesto noted, however, that Comelec has not yet responded formally to their written query.

By law, DepEd will recommend members while the Comelec will finalize it in the issuance of appointment papers, she told MindaNews in a telephone interview this week.

Melcar Unso, Comelec spokesperson for Southeastern Mindanao, said that after the elections they will investigate the election assistant in charge of the BEIs.

Antipuesto said they suspect that Teresita Ardonaza, the election assistant assigned to District 1, committed an irregularity "for a reason we are not yet sure of."

Antipuesto said regular teachers were replaced by personalities whose qualifications are also suspect. 

But she did not say that the alteration is connected to cheating.

Jerry Mujal, Comelec election officer for District 1, denied they have unilaterally reshuffled and replaced BEI composition.

He said Comelec has the right to check if the recommended BEI members are indeed qualified. He said they found out that some of those recommended were either relatives of DepEd personnel or non-voters in the district that they were assigned.

DepEd noted that the questionable alteration affected only a small portion of some 14,000 BEI members that will man the precincts on Monday.

But Antipuesto said they will pursue the case as it involves the integrity of the elections and that of the DepEd personnel involved.

She said they have already endorsed an inquiry to the DepEd law department for possible action.

DepEd spokesperson Dodong Atillo told MindaNews they will be more careful with the conduct of their partners, like Comelec, in future elections.

Every BEI member gets P3,300 for the one-day duty, with P1,800 as down payment before election day, including a P300 transportation allowance.  

Meanwhile, an official at the City Treasurer's Office told MindaNews important election materials just arrived a day before the vote, which means the Comelec was late in shipping them from Manila.

Officials assured, however, that the delays will not block the holding of elections.

"But this could be improved if the election process would be computerized," Anastacio Jardin, assistant city treasurer, said.