Gian C. Geronimo / VERA Files
LEARNING from the special registration of persons with disabilities (PWD) last year, the Commission on Election in Davao’s first district and in Kadilingan town in Bukidnon said they are more prepared this time than they were in 2011.
The month-long special Comelec registration of PWDs in Mindanao will officially kick off in Davao on Wednesday, April 18, although registrations have been ongoing since April 1.
Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio, election officer of Davao City’s first district, said the local government is ready and has ensured conditions for maximum registration of PWDs.
The special registration will be held at the ground floor of the Sangguniang Panglungsod Building in Davao City. Preparations included ocular inspections of sites where the special registration will be conducted.
MINDANAO REGISTRATION DATES:
– Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula): Zamboanga del Sur (http://verafiles.org/docs/pwd/region_9_zamboanga_peninsula.htm)
– Region X (Northern Mindanao): Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental (http://verafiles.org/docs/pwd/region_10_northern_mindanao.htm)
– Region XI (Davao Region): Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur (http://verafiles.org/docs/pwd/region_11_davao_region.htm)
– Region XII (SOCCSKSARGEN): South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani (http://verafiles.org/docs/pwd/region_12_socksargen.htm)
– Region XIII (CARAGA): Agusan del Norte (http://verafiles.org/docs/pwd/region_13_caraga.htm)
In July 2011, special registrations were held in the upper floors of SM malls all over the country, but the Comelec changed the venues this year to the ground floors of municipal gyms and halls for better PWD accessibility.
“We hope this time more people will register or have their records updated,” said Ferolino-Ampoloquio. “We hope they will respond to the schedule.”
One of the weaknesses of last year’s special registration was that it was held in the second floor of the SM mall in Davao City, which had no activity center on the ground floor.
The venue hindered PWDs from registering. The simultaneous celebration of the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week also affected registrant turnout. As a result, turnout was fewer than expected
“The number of registrants was so small that we allowed non-PWDs to register,” said Ferolino-Ampoloquio. After all the preparation done this time, however, she expects more registrants.
In the Bukidnon town of Kadilingan, Election officer Teresita Candole said that from last year’s registration, they saw the need to provide easy access to voting places.
“Now we are really conducting registration with the sole emphasis on PWDs through satellite registration in their respective barangays,” Candole said. The Comelec will be assisted by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development point person and the local government units.
The registrations in Kadilingan are scheduled April 10-12, April 17-18 and April 24-30 and she said that so far it has been going well.
She also expressed appreciation for the efforts of PWDs in the registration, “despite having difficulties, they really want to vote,” said Candole.
She reported that 30 PWDs from three barangays have so far registered since April 10, with three more barangays to go. Out of these 30, however, only five PWDs are new voters, Candole added.
Three of them are hearing impaired, while the other two have mobility impairments. The rest are elderly people who had disabilities as a result of aging, according to Candole.
Only three barangays are left for registration until the end of the month, as Candole said that
Out of Kadingilan’s 17 barangays, only six reported having PWDs as residents: Matampay, Cabadiangan, Kibalagon, Baroy, Poblacion and Salvacion. Only three of these remain to be covered by the registration till the end of the month.
Candole said the PWDs she talked to were glad about their being prioritized in the special registration.
“They were happy because they felt their importance,” said Candole. “(They felt) that they have space in our society.”
A total of 5,552 PWDs went to the July special registration last year, according to Comelec data. Of these, 614 were from Mindanao, excluding the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
ARMM was, and is still not included in the special registration because registration there resumed only this March pursuant to Resolution 9288, which delayed the polls in the area.
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, the Comelec point person on PWD, said the poll body improved its services based on the weaknesses it saw in last year’s special registration.
These weaknesses listed by Comelec mostly had to do with logistics. Time to disseminate information was limited because the request letter sent by Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAP- Pinoy), a federation of disabled peoples organization (DPO) was sent only in May. This left Comelec only two months to prepare.
Limited funds and lack of coordination to prepare things such as transportation for the PWDs were also weaknesses listed by the Comelec in last year’s registration.
The NDPR celebration week was also in conflict with the dates set for PWD registration. As a result, some PWDs were unable to register as they attended the NDPR festivities.
Comelec said special registration is also open to persons without disability should they wish to register. However, PWDs are still given the highest priority, through initiatives such as more accessible areas and priority lanes.
Special registrations were also held in Visayas in March with a total of 313 registered voters as of the April 3 partial and unofficial tally of Comelec. In Iloilo City, there were 21 newly registered voters, 13 who verified their voter’s information, three who transferred their voter’s certificate, and four who reactivated their voter’s registration. The number increased compared to the 15 PWDs who participated in July. In Cebu’s north district, 22 new PWD voters registered.
Special registrations will be held in Luzon in June and in July, another nationwide registration for PWDs will be conducted.
Sarmiento’s office also said that the Comelec has ensured awareness programs regarding the special registrations through partnerships with groups advocating PWD rights, as well as utilizing various forms of media—such as posters, videos and the web—to disseminate information.
This is in line with what the Comelec terms as a “three-pronged electoral approach” of the government on PWD registration, which involves continuous communication and networking with PWD organizations, to raise awareness and gain recognition.
Meanwhile, National Council on Disability Affairs Programs Coordinator Flerida Labanon said the NCDA has worked around the clock to support the special registration. The NCDA is the government agency tasked with coordinating with PWDs and formulating policies that will aid them.
Labanon, who handles Regions XI, XII and XIII (Davao, SOCCSKSARGEN and CARAGA regions, respectively), said that her agency coordinated with the Comelec and various PWD groups, disseminating information and monitoring the whole process to make sure all goes well.
“PWDs are well-represented in the regional and local government levels,” Labanon said, stating efforts by the government to give PWDs representation.
As examples, she pointed out that in Davao City in Region XI there is a Disabilities Affairs office, and that in the provinces of Davao del Sur and Davao Del Norte, only three municipalities do not have a local PWD organization. In Butuan City in Region XIII, meanwhile, there is also an organization for PWDs connected to the local DSWD office.
“We exhaust all our efforts to spread the message that every PWD should go out and register,” said Labanon, stating that the NCDA does all it can to coordinate with non-government organizations and local government units.
However, Labanon said that PWD representatives will be the most influential in persuading other PWDs to go out and register.
“The best persons to tell them are their own leaders,” said Labanon.
Knowing everyone has the right to vote, Labanon emphasized the importance of the special registration.
“(PWDs) are aware that they are part of the selection (of leader),” Labanon said. “Iba ang dating noon.”
The special registration is also a way to show the world that the Philippines respects PWDs.
“When the international community asks us what we’ve accomplished (regarding PWD rights), we can tell them, ‘We accomplished this,’” Labanon said. She added that this special registration is a “confidence build-up” for PWDs.
Republic Act 7277, or the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities passed in 1992, states that “[p]olling places should be made accessible to disabled persons during the national or local elections.”
Meanwhile, Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, states that governments should ensure “that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use.”
According to the World Health Organization’s “World Report on Disability” in 2011, 15 percent or around a billion people of the world’s population are living with disabilities. Data from the NCDA, meanwhile, pegs the number at only around 4.4 million, though it has qualified this as including only PWDs from poor households. – with reports from Hazel Villa and Ramon Hiponia