By Deedee Siytangco
The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day. —Todd Whitaker
High points of the week: Good news. Congratulations to the first female valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy, our premier military school. She is from Ilocos, Cadet First Class Dionne Mae Umalla of class ’19.
And, last May 21, President Rodrigo Duterte appeared in public for the first time in more than a week. He welcomed the new Thai ambassador to the Philippines and appeared to be in high spirits.
So there go that nasty rumor he suffered a cardiac arrest!
Low point: Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales being denied entry in Hong Kong for being a security risk. Chita was planning a vacation with her husband, family, and grandchildren for a few days of fun in the city.
After four hours of being held in a room, offered food, which she refused, she still did not know why she was prevented entry. Later she was “allowed” in, but a miffed Chita chose to board the next flight back to Manila with all her family. They told her she was a security risk in so many words— “Immigration concerns.”
Remember that few weeks ago, Morales and former DFA secretary Albert del Rosario filed a protest against the Chinese president Xi Jingping and other officials for endangering the environment, livelihood, and lives of Filipinos in Batangas? The Chinese government violated the International Criminal Court (ICC) rules. Hurray for the two brave patriots but they made the Chinese officialdom angry.
Now, who are the unsung heroes of the elections?
It is said that a teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart. Think about it: Our educators have helped in every facet of our society. Teaching is, indeed, the one profession that creates all other professions.
Teachers are also called upon to direct and administer the voting procedure during elections. As anyone who has ever voted can attest, this is no easy task. The job starts way before the precincts open. On election day, they assist wave after wave of voters. That can be very overwhelming.
More than a decade ago, when the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) still counted votes manually, teachers always had to steel themselves for the daunting task of safeguarding our ballots. They were, quite literally, putting their lives on the line every election year. The teachers I’ve spoken to said that they would always feel dread in the mornings before they head out to the precincts, hours before the polls open at six in the morning. Not only do they lack sleep, they also spend a whole lot of will power to be vigilant—to guard the ballots and their own safety.
Come 2010, when the country experienced its very first automated elections, things started to change for our beloved teachers. Since the transition to automation, teachers now focus on assisting the voters and guarding the ballots. They no longer have to always watch their backs for any would-be cheaters or those who coerce them into giving the ballot boxes. They also don’t have to spend countless hours tallying votes.
Our neighbors in Indonesia, up until now, have a manual election system. They recently had their elections as well, around a month before we had ours. While I am not aware of the political situation there, I saw some disturbing news some two weeks ago: More than 270 election staff died, not because of violence but because of overwork.
We should consider ourselves fortunate that we’ve “graduated” from the manual election systems. Despite issues with the recent senatorial and local polls, I still believe that a voting and counting system with minimal human intervention and contact is a must for any electoral exercise.
But of course, it doesn’t mean that the human touch has no place in the electoral system. We still need our teachers to assist the elderly and the differently-abled, to guide those who are exercising their right to vote for the first time.
The teachers are there to make the process easier. Technology is there to make the counting faster and accurate. To ruin that balance would be counterproductive. To go back to manual or the looming threat of a “hybrid” system would be a disservice to the public. It would force our teachers to once again face election day with terror and uncertainty.
To our teachers, we thank you for your vigilance and continued service to us!