Network to empower voters with disability reactivated
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) reconvened on Friday, December 12, the network of agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO) that in the last election worked to empower voters with disabilities and senior citizens.
New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) will assist the Comelec in implementing Republic Act 10366, which provides for the establishment of accessible polling places exclusively for persons with disability (PWDs) and senior citizens.
The NVAP spearheads the PWD Empowerment Project, which aims to uplift the lives of PWDs through political participation, either as voters or electoral candidates.
Its president Emer Rojas, in a statement, said the right to suffrage of PWDs is guaranteed by the Constitution as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
"However, our present polling structure is not conducive enough for PWDs to exercise that right. It is high time that the government fulfills this obligation," said Rojas.
Michael Barredo of the party-list group Pilipino With Disabilities also pushed for the implementation of RA 10366 in the 2016 elections.
"We are very much encouraged by this development, as PWDs have long been neglected to actively participate in the economic and political affairs of the country. We must remember that democracy cannot fulfill ts purpose if a segment of society is left behind," Barredo said.
More inclusive elections
Pursuant to RA 10366, the Comelec plans to put up satellite voter registration centers designed only for PWDs and seniors, as well as accessible polling places for them in 2016.
"It is in line with the efforts of Comelec to make elections more inclusive and to be more participative in its processes," said Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia.
"Primarily, the objective is to build on the gains that have been achieved and to learn from the mistakes in the past two elections," he added.
Guia said that this is a joint effort with the PWD sector. "It's a continuing effort to make things better," he said.
The network's relaunch was welcomed by the British Embassy, which expressed hope that it would help remove barriers to the PWDs' exercise of their right to vote.
The inter-agency and NGO network was first organized in February 2011 to prepare the Comelec as well as the necessary infrastructure and processes in ensuring the political participation of PWDs in elections, Guia said. – Rappler.com