Gatchalian wants tax-free allowances for teachers on poll duty

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2020   •   588

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has urged his fellow lawmakers to expedite the passage of a bill seeking to grant tax exemption to the honoraria, transportation allowance and other benefits for public school teachers who will be on duty in the May 2022 elections.

In a statement, Gatchalian said that his measure, Senate Bill No. 1193, primarily introduces amendments to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 so teachers can receive the full amount of their honoraria and other benefits.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue started imposing five percent withholding tax on poll workers’ election service honoraria and other allowances since the 2018 barangay elections.

The lawmaker stressed that despite the continuous service that these poll workers render to ensure the transmission of results, they still have to pay income tax if their annual taxable income, which includes such honoraria and allowances, exceeds the P250,000 threshold under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

“Mahabang oras ang inilalaan ng mga guro upang siguruhin ang kaayusan at integridad ng ating mga halalan,” Gatchalian said.

“Kaya naman inihain natin itong panukalang batas na ito upang kilalanin ang kanilang mahalagang papel para pangalagaan ang ating demokrasya,” he added.

The bill also proposes to exclude teachers’ poll honoraria and allowances from gross income. Under the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA), chairpersons of electoral boards are each entitled to receive P6,000. Each member of electoral boards receive P5,000. Department of Education Supervisor Officials (DESO) receive P4,000 each while support staff receive P2,000 each.

A travel allowance of P1,000 is also allotted to each of these poll workers. The ESRA, though, has no provision for tax exemption.

Aside from the necessity of paying income tax despite the poll workers’ arduous work during elections, Gatchalian also lamented the process they have to go through to collect their pay.

To collect their election honoraria and benefits, poll workers have to go to the local Commission on Elections (COMELEC) offices and submit a declaration of exemptions if they earn less than P250,000 annually.

“Napapagod na nga ang ating mga guro tuwing halalan, kailangan pa nilang dumaan sa isang komplikadong proseso para makuha lang nila ang kanilang sahod at mga benepisyo. Kung hindi na papatawan ng buwis ang sahod at benepisyo ng mga guro tuwing halalan, hindi lang sila basta makakatanggap ng kabuuang bayad, mas mapapadali din ang proseso para sa COMELEC,” he said.

Gatchalian believes the proposed measure is the best way to thank teachers and other poll workers for ensuring clean, honest and orderly elections in the country.

Comelec to revert weekday schedule for voter registration on Nov. 9

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 22, 2020

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Thursday (October 22) that it will revert to weekday schedule for voter registration beginning November 9.

When Comelec resumed voter registration last September 1, it was scheduled to be conducted from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said reverting to the weekday schedule will provide the agency time to disinfect offices on Saturdays.

“The Commission on Elections deems it necessary to revert to the weekday schedule to make way for Saturday disinfection days in all Offices of the Election Officer nationwide,” he said.

However, the Comelec official clarified that voter registration in areas under localized Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) will remain suspended.

Comelec also reminded the public that minimum health safety protocols will also be implemented during the registration to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Wearing of face mask and face shield is mandatory, the number of people to be allowed inside the COMELEC office will be limited to ensure compliance with physical distancing requirements, and applicants are encouraged to bring their own pens,” Jimenez said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Ex-Comelec chairman Jose Melo passes away

Robie de Guzman   •   October 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chairman Jose Melo has passed away, the poll body’s spokesperson announced.

In a message posted on Twitter, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said Melo died on Sunday night. He was 88 years old.

“Sad news tonight. Just received word that Chairman Jose A.R. Melo, former SC Justice, and the COMELEC Chairman who oversaw the country’s transition to full automation from 2008 to 2010, has passed away. He was 88 years old,” Jimenez said.

He, however, did not disclose the cause of Melo’s death .

Prior to leading the poll body, Melo served as Supreme Court Associate Justice for nearly 10 years.

Duterte not interested in term extension – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   September 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Monday reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte is not interested in extending his term of office amid talks on the proposed postponement of the May 2022 national elections.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the president will leave it to the Filipino people to decide on whether to delay the next polls that will pick his successor.

“The president is not interested in extending his term. And he leaves it to the Filipino people, the sovereign people, to decide if they want to amend the Constitution to postpone the elections,” Roque said during a televised press briefing.

Duterte’s term will end on June 30, 2022.

Roque said the postponement of the 2022 elections is only possible through the amendment of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

House Deputy Majority Leader Mikey Arroyo earlier raised the proposal for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider postponing the May 2022 elections due to the continuing threat of the coronavirus disease.

The Palace said the country still has time to prepare for the next elections and that it could learn from the examples of other countries that conducted elections even during the pandemic.

The Constitution mandates the conduct of the presidential and vice presidential, senators and House representatives’ elections every second Monday of May every six years.

Comelec earlier said the matter of postponing the polls is not a call of the poll body, but rather, up to the president and the Congress.

Malacañang also said it will let the Commission on Elections decide on the system it will use to conduct the next elections, including the political campaign period, following proposals to use mail-in and postal voting to ensure the health and safety of voters.

“The decision lies with the Comelec at hindi po natin pinangungunahan ang Comelec pero as I said, baka po kailangan po ang pamamaraan ng pag-conduct ng election,” Roque said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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