Saturday, November 10, 2012
MANILA, November 10, 2012-The country’s millions of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens (SCs) will be encouraged to register and vote – and will be able to actually do so – in local and national polls through the proposed Electoral Processes Accessibility Act.
This was underscored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, principal author of Senate Bill 3287 which aims to make fully-accessible to PWDs and seniors all electoral processes, which include registration, candidacy, campaign, voter education, and casting of vote.
Senate Bill 3287, a substitute bill of several legislative proposals and was sponsored by Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation Chairman Sen. Koko Pimentel III, was approved on Second Reading last November 5.
“Consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, other international declarations and treaties as well as our local laws, the bill defines PWDs as those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in the electoral processes on an equal basis with others, while SCs refer to qualified voters who are sixty (60) years or older,” Estrada explained.
Based on data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), non-government organizations and other independent groups, there are today about nine million PWDs and 6.5 million seniors among Filipinos.
Estrada, however, noted reports that only a fraction of the ranks of SCs and PWDs of voting age have been participating in the elections.
He likewise cited a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey commissioned by the Asia Foundation which even showed a decrease in participation of PWDs in the 2010 elections compared to 2007, with 17% saying they were ashamed to vote because of their disability, 17% stating mobility problems and 10% saying nobody would shade or read the ballot for them.
The same survey showed that the number of PWDs who were of voting age but did not register increased from 20 percent to 22 percent.
Estrada said, “The government must ensure that persons with disabilities and senior citizens are able to exercise their right to political participation without discrimination or restrictions. To attain this, we must design systems and procedures that will enable PWDs and SCs to register and vote by themselves.”
SB 3287 provides, among others, the following:
- Comelec’s designation of accessible polling places where PWDs and SCs may be able to cast their votes on election day and be provided with the necessary forms of assistance. The polling place shall be located at the ground floor of each voting center preferably near the entrance of the building;
- reasonable accommodation of PWDs and SCs in designing of the ballot and other election materials;
- ensuring that a pool of expert services including sign language interpreters, Braille translators and such other technical support would assist PWDs and SCs during the registration period and election day.
- sensitivity trainings to persons performing electoral duties, including Comelec field officers, members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEls) and accredited citizens' arms to familiarize with the needs of the PWDs and SCs; and
- keeping of an updated record of PWDs and SCs who are registered as voters, indicating the types of disability and the assistance they need, to assist the government in determining policy directions for more inclusive and accessible electoral processes.
“Persons with disabilities and senior citizens are vital participants in our national development and, in particular, in electing government officials who will then manage the system of service to the people. We must ensure that our PWDs and seniors are able to fully and actively participate in the country’s electoral processes,” Estrada stressed.