Philippines: Teachers fight for electoral justice

Ating Guro vigil outside Comelec office. Manila, May 27. Photo: Partido Lakas ng Masa.

Supporters of the Ating Guro (Teachers Dignity) partylist held a three-night vigil outside the offices of the Philippines Commission on Election (Comelec) on May 24, to protest apparent irregularities in counting votes after the May 9 general election.

These alleged irregularities deprived the left-wing teachers' group a seat in the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives is elected by a complicated system in which 80% of members are elected from geographical electorates while 20% of seats are reserved for groups representing sectoral interests. The system is supposed to ensure marginalised sectors are represented, but is open to abuse by the ruling political dynasties.

The 59 sectoral representation seats are elected by a system of proportional representation, but with the proviso that no ticket or “partylist” can hold more that three out of the 59 seats thus elected.

Comelec announced Ating Guro obtained one seat in a draft report released on May 19. This was confirmed in the national tally sheet released the same day. However, less than 10 minutes later, when the official proclamation of electoral results, Ating Guro's seat had disappeared.

The vigil was in support of a petition made by Ating Guro to Comelec. A mass rally was called for May 31, when Comelec will rule on the petition.

Ating Guro is the largest organisation covering public school teachers in the Philippines. During the election, and in the campaign against this apparent electoral fraud, Ating Guro has been supported by the left-wing Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM). Lead candidate on the Ating Guro ticket, Benjo Basas, is a PLM founding member.

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