Deaf persons want to be heard come elections

Voltaire Tupaz
A special registration for people with disabilities was held throughout the country Saturday, August 11

FIRST TIME TO VOTE. Azel Christensen, a deaf person, will vote for the first time and for the sake of her son. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz

MANILA, Philippines – They heard about the special registration for persons with disabilities (PWD) only a day before it was held, still reeling from the recent torrential rain and floods that hit Metro Manila.

But when the sun shone on Saturday, August 11, Azel Christensen and Ronald Yambao, both deaf persons, prepared to go to St Peter’s Shrine along Commonwealth Avenue, the registration center in the 2nd district of Quezon City.

It was an important day for them. Azel is 28 while Ronald is 40, but it will be their first time to vote come 2013 midterm elections.

According to the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, (PPCRV) of the nearly 9 million PWDs in the Philippines, about one-third, or 3 million, are qualified to vote.

What’s at stake 

They brought their respective families. A single mother, Azel came with her one-and-a-half month old child. Ronald came with his wife and his son who is in grade 2.

“Im here to give my son a good future,” Azel gestured to the sign language interpreter, explaining why she registered.

She has been hopping from one job to another to raise her son. A college graduate, Azel has worked as a bartender and a computer graphics artist.

On Monday, August 13, she will start her 4th job as a helper in the warehouse of a local clothing brand. 

She said she is working hard because she cannot wait for the support of her former partner who is also a deaf person.

Unlike Azel, Ronald does not have a job. Unable to finish his college education, Ronald said he has faced one rejection after another. 

His sister has been supporting his family. But he dreams of opening his own grocery store one day.

For now, he would like to work. He hopes that the candidates he will vote for will give people with disabilities work opportunities. 

Iboboto ko ang mga good leaders; yung marunong mag-observe sa (pangangailangan) ng lipunan,” Ronald said.

(I would vote for good leaders; those who are sensitive to the needs of society.)

EXPRESS LANE. Persons with disabilities (PWDS) are given priority when they register. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz

Express lanes

The day-long special registration went smoothly for Azel, Ronald, and 8 other PWDs. 

Three nuns from the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Elizabeth walked them through the registration process. They also served as sign language interpreters. 

Lawyer Sheila Rafanan, a Commison on Elections officer in Quezon City, said that only about 10 PWDs have registered today. In the 2nd district of Quezon City, 59 PWDs have registered so far. 

Rafanan attributed the low turnout to transportation problems, the floods and the incessant rain that pounded Metro Manila recently. 

Rafanan encouraged PWDS to register until Oct 31, 2012, the end of the registration period. She assured the PWDs that “express lanes” have been provided for them in all Comelec field offices. 

The Comelec has promulgated the following resolutions that would benefit PWDs:

  • Resolution 9149, a measure which creates express lanes for PWDs during registration 
  • Resolution 9220, a measure which allows PWDs to have assisters when registering and voting

“As Filipinos, they have the right to vote. They should exercise their right,” Rafanan said.

But Sister Dawelyn de la Cruz, one of the nuns who accompanied the PWDs, wished they were given ample time to mobilize more PWDs. 

The PWD rights advocate said she was only informed about National PWD Registration Day a day before it was held.

Since 2011, this is the second time that the Comelec, in partnership with PPCRV and the PWD group Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AUP-PINOY), organized a special registration for PWDs.

The PPCRV noted that only a total of 803,518 of the PWDs have registered to date. –