High hopes for PWD-inclusive election

Nikki T. Avila, Gretzel H. Lantican, Jodesz Gavilan

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A free concert to encourage PWDs to cast their votes in the coming elections was held Monday, May 6

PROMISES ARE MEANT TO BE KEPT. Fliptopper with cerebral palsy "Righteous One" covers songs with his band to encourage fellow PWDs to exercise their right to vote and to challenge senatorial candidates to keep their campaign promises. Photo by Rappler/Diody Fadullan

MANILA, Philippines –A fliptopper with cerebral palsy crooned in a free concert to encourage persons with disabilities (PWD) to vote in the 2013 midterm elections.

Fliptopper “Rightous One,” whose real name is Joshua Berenguer, was joined by other rock bands in an event titled, “Rock for a Fully Abled Nation (FAN)” on Monday, May 6 at Eastwood City.

At a very young age, Berenguer’s condition crippled him and he had to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

His disability however did not stop him from realizing his dreams and eventually becoming one of the highest paid fliptoppers in the Philippine Fliptop community.

Rock for a Fully Abled Nation (FAN)

Dakila, a group of individuals committed to raising social awareness, organized the event to encourage and inspire PWDs to cast their votes in the upcoming elections.

PWD sectors, government and non-government organizations, and talented artists united to attain one goal: to empower Filipinos to exercise their right of suffrage, especially PWDs.

A visually impaired band named “Long Time No See” raised the spirits of the crowd with their inspiring performance.

The performance of the band is an effort to encourage the PWD community not to waste their right to vote because their condition makes it difficult to exercise this right.

The concert also featured popular rock bands such as Up Dharma Down, Itchyworms, Malay, Kamikazee, Maude, Pulso, and renowned rock icon Franco.  

The Birth of FAN

Issues and problems relating to participation of PWDs have been largely overlooked by different groups campaigning for a high voters’ turnout.

This year, FAN aims to ensure that the 2013 midterm elections will be PWD-inclusive. Their campaign bears the slogan, “Lahat tayo may K! May karapatan, may kakayahan at kapansanan.” (We each have a right, ability and disability.)

FAN aims to increase the involvement of PWDs in the elections, from registration, voters’ education, and until they cast their vote in their respective polling precincts.

INSPIRED. The Asian Foundation Assistant Program Officer Emil Tapnio shares a photo of a person with disability who successfully filled out her application form. Photo by Rappler/Nikki Avila

PWD problems in 2010

Several problems arose during the 2010 presidential elections, according to the Assistant Program Officer of The Asia Foundation Emil Tapnio.

PWDs found themselves assigned in precincts located at the top floors with neither a ramp in sight nor volunteers equipped enough to help them.

Encouraging them to register in the first place was not an easy feat because for PWDs, voting is the least of their priorities.

“We really had a hard time convincing them to register and vote eventually because it’s the least of their priorities. I mean, most of them aren’t really well-off,” Tapnio said in Filipino.

The problems faced then resulted in the start of the campaign. Road shows were held to heighten PWD voters’ awareness as well as volunteerism for the elections.

The National Council on Disability Affairs Director Carmen Zubiaga relayed the PWD community’s joy over the efforts exerted especially for them. They would unlikely face problems when they vote on May 13. 

Zubiaga said that the PWD vote is as good as anyone else’s.

EMPOWERED. NCDA director Carmen Zubiaga shares how important it is to make the election a PWD-inclusive one. Photo by Rappler/Jodesz Gavilan

Hoping for higher PWD turnout

By including a table where one can indicate his or her disability in the registration form for this year’s elections, the Comelec was able to identify 65,972 newly-registered PWDs.

It is the first time it was implemented so the total number of PWD voters is still unknown.

Dakila Spokesperson Ayeen Karunungan said they were able to reach many communities through their campaign. Karunungan said there is a possibility that many PWDs would be empowered and realize the importance of their vote. 

Tapnio praised efforts and partnerships between non-government organizations and government institutions to make the 2013 elections PWD-inclusive.

On the other hand, Zubiaga said that the fight is still not over.

“It’s a long way to go to achieve an inclusive and barrier-free society for all,” Zubiaga said. – Rappler.com

Nikki Avila, Jodesz Gavilan, Gretzel Lantican, and Diody Fadullan are Rappler interns. Follow them on Twitter for real-time updates by clicking on their names.


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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.