Preview of 2016? High turnout for PWDs, seniors
MANILA, Philippines – Voter turnout was high in special voting centers for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens in 4 SM malls during the 2013 barangay elections on Monday, October 28.
This encouraged election officials to make sure more accessible polling centers will be provided these sectors in the next elections 3 years from now.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Luie Tito Guia reported on Monday the following turnout among PWDs and the elderly who signified their intent to vote inside the SM malls, instead of in their original voting precincts:
- SM City Manila - 36 of 37 voters, or 97%
- SM City Lipa in Batangas - 37 of 44 voters, or 84%
- SM City Cebu - 73 of 75 voters, or 97.3%
- SM City Gen. Santos in South Cotabato - 59 of 68 voters, or 86%
The special voting centers were set up by the poll body to make the elections more accessible to the "vulnerable sector." Voting hours in these malls were from 7 am to 1 pm. (READ: PWDs, senior citizens may vote in select SM malls)
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr himself visited SM City Manila on Monday to witness the conduct of polls there. Rappler reported that majority of those who trooped to the SM malls were senior citizens. (READ: Age doesn't matter – in elections)
In a press briefing on Tuesday, October 29, Commissioner Grace Padaca, a PWD herself, shared comments by the voters in these malls.
"They were very happy because the malls were air-conditioned, there was a waiting area, and there were only a few of them there. They observed, though, that they had to fall in line, unlike in regular polling precincts where they were prioritized."
But not everyone was okay with the offsite polling places. "For some PWDs and the elderly, the schools are nearer than the malls. Others said their assistors would have to go to 2 places: to their regular precincts in schools to vote, then to the malls," said Padaca.
"We in Comelec cannot presume that the elderly and the PWDs automatically want to be taken out of their regular precincts," added Padaca.
The project served as Comelec's benchmark for the full implementation of Republic Act 10366 or the law that authorizes Comelec to establish accessible voting centers exclusively for PWDs and senior citizens.
Padaca explained that RA 10366 was signed by President Benigno Aquino III in February and the implementing rules and regulations were only finalized in August, two months before the elections.
Target: Accessible polling places
Outside the malls, PWDs and the elderly joined the rest of the electorate in voting the usual way – with some even going to their precincts in the upper floors of school buildings just to exercise their right to vote.
Guia noted that 95% of school buildings across the country are single-storey buildings. "So hindi naman siguro ganun ka-nationwide 'yung naging problema ng PWDs and senior citizens," commented Guia. (So, I suppose the problems encountered by PWDs and senior citizens were not nationwide.)
Nevertheless, Guia said that the poll body is very sensitive to their plight during elections.
"We will do our best to provide the solutions in the coming 2016 elections," he said.
Padaca said: "We will come up with special polling places for all elderly and PWDs. It can be in the ground floor [of school buildings], in shopping malls, in gymnasiums, in basketball courts." – Rappler.com