PWD voters’ registration dry-run held
By Ghio Angelo Ong
“Hindi lang tayo mga may kapansanan, bagkus ay mga responsableng may kapansanan.”
Stressing the importance of exercising the right to suffrage by physically-challenged people as guaranteed by the Constitution, Chato Manglapuz, president of the Cerebral Palsied Association of the Philippines (CPAP), declared this during the seminar/dry-run for the voters’ registration for persons with disability (PWD) in preparation for the 2013 midterm elections at the municipal hall of San Mateo, Rizal last March 24.
At her talk during the seminar, Manglapuz shared she saw the dire need for PWD to go out and vote after learning some time ago that she was the only registered voter of her kind at her hometown in Marikina City. She also encouraged almost 100 participants who attended the event – all coming from the 15 barangays town-wide – to help in educating others in their sector about this important responsibility.
San Mateo spearheads program
The PWD federation of San Mateo, headed by Jun Bucad, initiated the activity organized by CPAP as part of The Asia Foundation’s (TAF) PWD-Inclusive Elections Program and the PWD empowerment advocacy brand ‘Fully Abled Nation’, in coordination with the local government and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), and through generous support of the Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID).
Bucad and COMELEC local officer Lelisa Sanchez claimed the initiative was the first to be conducted in Rizal province, and even in the country, way ahead of the actual nationwide registration for PWD voters come July this year.
“Ipakita natin sa iba nating mga kasama na kaya nating magawa at gamitin ang ating karapatan sa pagboto. Para rin ito sa ating kinabukasan,” Bucad said in his opening remarks.
Urgent action ensured
Sanchez said the COMELEC wanted to prioritize the PWD sector in the registration process for them to be ably identified and to know, plan and implement what kind of assistance they might need during election day, pursuant to the commission’s Resolution No. 9220 promulgated on May 12 last year.
She shared that common problems encountered during election day would be the lack of proper assistance given to physically-challenged voters who were either assigned on the upper floors of polling precincts or could not see, hear nor understand the instructions. These would eventually give them a hard time to cast their ballots.
She elaborated the registration procedures and entertained queries from the participants, which dealt mostly on the forms to be filled up by new voters, transferees and those with inconsistent personal data, and validation of records.
PWD, groups show interest
Eager enough, the participants then proceeded to register, with assistance from their relatives and local COMELEC officers.
Ferdinand Balaguer, 52 and assisted by his mother Elisa during the registration, stopped from voting since 1987 after suffering from total blindness caused by rheumatism. “Nire-renew ko ang registration ko kasi kailangan din ang mga katulad ko na bumoto, at saka nasa batas kasi ito,” he said.
A 60-year-old woman afflicted by cerebral palsy even expressed deep gratitude to the organizers and partners for assuring people like her of their right to choose the country’s future leaders and letting their voices be heard through this practice.
Meanwhile, Atty. Rexy Magsanoc, staff of COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, thanked the participants for their active participation and support for the electoral exercise. Also, Johnny Cardenas, board director of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), encouraged them to join the organization to serve as election volunteers, assistants and watchdogs.