High turnout in special precincts-A A +A
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
THE voters’ turnout in one of four pilot accessible polling places (APPs) for persons with disabilities and senior citizens in the country was 97 percent.
Some 73 of 75 PWDs and senior citizens listed in the APP showed up to vote at the ground floor of SM City Cebu.
Except for minor glitches, like senior citizens who went to the APP but discovered that their names were not in the voters’ list, the polling ended smoothly.
The APP at SM City Cebu is one of four pilot polling venues nationwide.
The three other APPs are SM General Santos, SM Lipa, and SM Manila.
Voting in these places began at 7 a.m. and closed at 1 p.m.
After the voting, the ballot boxes were brought to their regular precincts for counting.
In Cebu City, the ballot box used in the APP at SM City Cebu was was brought to the Mabolo Elementary School, said election officer Arlene Gador.
Barangay Mabolo was chosen as a pilot village for APP being the nearest barangay to SM City Cebu.
Barangay Mabolo has about 2,500 senior citizens and 180 PWDs.
Comelec Commisioner Grace Padaca said the number of senior citizens compared to PWDs is a challenge to the poll body.
That’s because the old law seems to prioritize the PWDs than senior citizens and pregnant women, she said.
“Kumbaga nakikisakay na lng yung mga senior citizens at mga buntis. But under the new law, pantay-pantay na lahat (Should be equal),” Padaca told reporters.
The APPs would set the tone for the full implementation of Republic Act 10366, or the poll accessibility law, in the 2016 elections.
Pursuant to Comelec Resolution 9797, the poll body approved the creation of APPs in four SM malls.
Before the PWDs and senior citizens were allowed to vote in these APPs, the law mandates the PWDs to give their consent to be transferred from their regular precincts.
Of the 229 voters nationwide who agreed to vote in the APPs, only four PWDs agreed to vote in SM Cebu, three in SM General Santos, three in SM Lipa, and one in SM Manila.
The rest of the voters are senior citizens.
Commisioner Padaca, in an interview, said Comelec personnel visited the houses of senior citizens and PWDs and asked them whether they would want to vote inside the mall, or in their regular polling precincts.
“We have to get their consent. We could not just tell them to go to the mall (to vote). They should have a choice,” she said.
The Comelec allocated P400,000 for the four APPs and Padaca said SM malls did not charge the poll body for the spaces provided during elections.
She said the money was used for field work, coordination and consultation with voters.
Padaca emphasized the need to upgrade the registration papers of the PWDs so the poll body would know where to put up accessible polling places.
“That is why between now and 2016, our campaign is for PWD’s to come to Comelec and tell us your kind of disabilities so we would know how to deal with you on election time,” said Padaca.
The poll body reported there are 79,233 new PWD voters during the May 2013 mid-term elections.
The regular polling venues are also required by law to designate express lanes for PWDs and senior citizens and to assign rooms for them at the ground floor of schools.
But not all schools followed the law.
Dulce Savellon, 82, was accompanied by her daughter, Gina, and grandson, Bryan, to the mall’s foodcourt at the ground floor to vote in the accessible polling place.
Savellon said the precinct where she was listed as a voter is on the second floor of the Abella National High School.
Unfortunately, Savellon, who is in wheelchair, was not able to vote in SM City Cebu since she is a resident of Barangay Sambag.
She said people from their barangay hall and radio reports said senior citizens and PWDs could vote in the mall.
Damian Lucero, 64, and his wife Erlinda, 65, were not also able to vote in the mall since they were listed in the accessible polling place.
Raymundo Biaras, head of a group of senior citizens in Barangay Mabolo, said not all seniors agreed to vote in the mall because of accessibility.
Mario Lucero, 67, was accompanied by his oldest daughter, Marilyn, in casting his vote.
Asked why he agreed to vote in the mall, Lucero replied in jest: “Siyempre kay daghan gwapa (Of course, the pretty girls are here).”
Lucero said he voted the entire slate of their barangay to give the new breed of leaders to serve their village.
Corazon Veloria, 72, was the last to vote in the accessible polling place past 12 noon.
She said just came from Leyte and was not able to catch the vehicles used by Comelec to ferry senior citizens from and to their houses.
Volunteers from the Legal Network for Truth Elections and Cebu Citizens Involvement and Maturation for People Empowerment and Liberation also helped Comelec in assisting the voters.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 29, 2013.