By Artha Kira Paredes, VERA Files
Cotabato City — The Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is organizing teams of teachers to deal with threats of violence on Election Day, in what is believed to be the first measure of its kind to protect the election frontliners.
The agency launched today the DepEd-ARMM Election Response Network (DERN) and Election Response Teams (ERTs) based on Regional Memorandum Order 26, dated April 12, 2013.
In the memo, the DepEd acknowledges that school officials and their next of kin
are vulnerable to “coercion, intimidation, threats, bribery, violence against persons and even deaths.”
DepEd Assistant Secretary Noor Saada said they believe this is the first of its kind in the country. The proposed intervention for teachers is something they have learned from previous elections where there have been issues on teachers’ welfare, he said.
VERA Files interviewed Saada after the Tapatan sa ARMM forum Wednesday.
The DERN and ERTs will help beef up the teachers’ security as they serve as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), Saada said.
These measures are also expected to help them monitor those who are entangled in legal battles after the conduct of elections and will let the department “be in the position to provide legal assistance,” he added.
Election-related cases against teachers are filed directly in courts, usually without the DepEd being informed of the filings.
He said DepEd is working on this with the Commission on Elections and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Some of the functions of DERN include the assessment of security situation and threats of teachers serving as BEIs, the establishment of ERTs at the division and municipal level that will keep a directory of teachers’ names and contact numbers and emergency contact persons.
DERN will also have a system of reporting any untoward incident to the Comelec and other security groups and color code the situation. For instance, green means teachers are safe, yellow means elections pushed through with some degree of threat, red means teachers were threatened and stopped administering elections and black means an attack against the school and teachers took place, and there have been casualties.
The network will also help provide security and other support to teachers who become victims of attacks, as well as legal assistance. (See memo below).
(ARMM WATCH is a project of VERA Files in partnership with MindaNews and I-Watch. It is supported by The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)