Asia-Pacific Apr 27, 2012
PHILIPPINES: Owing to the lack of access for persons with disabilities in polling precincts, disabled peoples’ and non-governmental organizations expressed their support for House Bill 4048 or the Polling Center Accessibility Act.
In a statement, DPOs and NGOs cited data from the Social Weather Stations (SWS), which showed that 84 percent of people with vision disabilities supported the bill as well as 83 percent and 80 percent of mobility disability and hearing disability surveyed by SWS.
Further, the organizations said that the SWS survey results showed that around 31 percent of the hearing and speech disability intend to register and vote, while 29 percent of the mobility disability and 15 percent of vision disability intend to do the same.
“House Bill 4048, titled ‘Polling Center Accessibility Act,’ will be good for persons with disabilities because this will help increase persons with disabilities participation in voting,” the DPOs and NGOs said in a statement. “The nationwide SWS Survey of PWDs and Filipino Adults on Increasing the Participation of persons with disabilities in the Coming 2013 Midterm Elections was conducted from December 3 to 7, 2011.”
The DPOs and NGOs added that another SWS survey showed a drop in the participation of persons with disabilities in elections. The number of persons with disabilities who voted decreased to 54 percent in 2010 from 60 percent in 2007. Those who registered but did not vote rose to 21 percent from 14 percent.
Persons with disabilities of voting age but did not register also increased to 22 percent from 20 percent, the survey showed. SWS found that among those who did not vote in the 2010 elections, around 17 percent were ashamed to vote because of their disability, another 17 percent because of mobility problems, some 16 percent because they were either sick or bedridden, and 10 percent because nobody would shade or read the ballot for them.
During the recent launch of the Fully Abled Nation Campaign, the DPOs and NGOs said Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, such as access to precincts, is not only a social-welfare concern but also a human-rights issue.
“Aside from providing them access to pathways and doorways, we should also help them exercise their right to vote,” Robredo said. “What we need is provide them the access. We need more accessible registration sites and voting precincts so that persons with disabilities will be encouraged to go out and vote.”
Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, for his part expressed full support for the Fully Abled Nation Campaign. The three-year Disability-Inclusive Elections Program spearheaded by The Asia Foundation supported by the Australian Aid (AusAID), seeks, among others, public awareness on persons with disabilities right to suffrage.
Sarmiento said “we have a vacancy in the Comelec now and soon I am going to retire, it is my wish to see a persons with disabilities seated as a Comelec commissioner.”
He also stressed the need for a persons with disabilities party-list group in Congress who would champion their cause and will represent them in the lawmaking body.
“Reaching out to and working with persons with disabilities has legal, constitutional and international support,” Sarmiento said. “We have the 1987 Constitution, Omnibus Election Code, Law on Continued Registration, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, among others.”