Press Release
October 19, 2012


With the 2013 midterm elections just six months away, Sen. Aquilino "Koko" L. Pimentel III, PDP Laban President, wants to make the electoral process easier to access for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

In his sponsorship speech for Senate Bill No. 3287 under Committee Report No. 410, titled "An Act Ensuring The Accessibility Of The Electoral Process for Persons With Disability and Senior Citizens", Pimentel cited the "vital contributions of PWDs and senior citizens to nation-building and the need for lawmakers to give more meaning to the exercise of their political rights without discrimination or restriction."

Pimentel, chairman of the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, said PWDs and senior citizens are "two disadvantaged sectors in our society which continue to demonstrate their willingness to continuously build a great Filipino nation."

He cited the 1992 Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (RA 7277) which provides for the rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of persons with disability and their integration in the mainstream of society.

In the same year, Republic Act No. 7432 was also enacted to maximize the contribution of senior citizens to nation building and grant benefits and special privileges to them.

Despite these two laws and the lapse of 20 years, Pimentel lamented, PWDs and senior citizens cannot fully exercise their political rights as these have not been refined to suit their specific needs.

Pimentel asked: "How can these sectors register as voters when the registration centers are not easily accessible to them? How can they eventually vote when their precincts are located on the upper floors of the polling centers without elevators or electric-run stairs to make things easier for them?"

The proposed bill seeks not only to provide special polling places for PWDs and SCs during election day but also to set up special registration centers and days for them during the registration period.

Once signed into law, the bill directs the Commission on Elections to establish a system that will make it easier for the PWDs and SCs to eventually register and vote by themselves.

The Pimentel bill is a substitute bill which consolidates Senate Bill No. (SBN) 617 by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, SBN 935 by Sen. Lito Lapid, SBN 1843 by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, SBN 2820 by Sen. Manny Villar, and SBN 2999 also by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

These bills seek to empower all citizens of the country not otherwise disqualified by law to exercise the right of suffrage as mandated by Section 1, Article V of the 1987 Constitution.

At the same time, the Constitution ordains that Congress shall design a procedure for the disabled and the elderly to enable them to exercise their right to vote (Section 2, paragraph 2, Article V).

The Magna Carta for Persons with Disability (Republic Act No. 7277) Section 29 provides that "polling places should be made accessible to disabled persons during national and local elections."

The proposed bill makes it the duty of the Comelec to render appropriate assistance to PWDs and senior citizens to enable them to participate meaningfully and with ease in electoral processes.

The poll body shall also keep an updated record of PWDs and senior citizen registered voters, indicating the types of disability and the assistance they need.

During the period for registration of voters, it is already required by R.A. 8189 that the Comelec, in coordination with national government agencies and local government units, PWD and senior citizen organizations and other cause-oriented groups, shall conduct satellite and/or special registration for PWDs and senior citizens in places accessible to them.

On election day, the Comelec is mandated to designate accessible polling places where PWDs and senior citizens may be able to cast their votes 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.

In line with this, the poll body may maintain the existing precinct assignment of the PWD and senior citizen voters; establish a separate precinct for PWDs and senior citizens; or combine them with other voters in existing precincts on the ground floor of appropriate buildings and depending on their number in the locality, and upon consultation with PWD and senior citizen sectors.

At all times, the Comelec shall ensure that the right of the PWDs and the senior citizens to the secrecy of their votes is protected.

In designing the ballot, the Comelec shall ensure reasonable accommodation to PWDs and senior citizens to enable them to accomplish the ballots by themselves. The poll body may also design ballots for PWDs and senior citizens or prepare ballot guides in Braille, to assist the concerned PWDs and senior citizens to fill up their ballots by themselves.

A PWD or senior citizen who is illiterate or physically unable to prepare the ballot by himself or herself may be assisted in the preparation of his or her ballot by a relative by affinity or consanguinity within the fourth civil degree, or if he or she has none, by any person of his or her confidence who belongs to the same household, or by any member of the board of election inspectors (BEI).

Comelec, in coordination with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), shall ensure that a pool of expert services is made available to assist PWDs and senior citizens during the registration period and election day.

The poll body, in coordination with the NCDA, the Commission on Human Rights, and PWD and senior citizens organizations shall organize, design, and implement sensitivity training programs for persons performing electoral duties to familiarize them with the needs of the PWDs and senior citizens.

News Latest News Feed