THE difficulty experienced by senior citizens in the barangay elections Monday is testament to the need for them and persons with disability to have a separate day for voting.
What was new in the Monday elections, as reported in many polling places around the country, was on how precincts were redistributed or spread out to accommodate voters. The advantage was that the process inside the precinct of finding your name, getting the ballot and filling it was made quicker. The disadvantage is that you would first have to look for your assigned polling place and your precinct in a process that was confusing and taxing.
There was House Bill 5661 that was approved on third and final reading on May 29, 2017 and was meant to allow senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to vote a week ahead of election day for national and local positions. A quick online search showed no counterpart measure in the Senate and, thus, no law.
Early voting should be allowed not only for national and local exercises but whenever there are elections in the country, such as those for barangay officials. Allowing senior citizens and PWDs to vote early makes the political exercise inclusive and the government responsive to special needs of others.
As of the May 2016 elections, Comelec data showed there were 6,695,251 senior citizens and 318,013 registered PWD voters. For Cebu City senior citizens, going out to vote was not only an exercise of their right of suffrage but a way also to prove they are still constituents, a requirement for them to continue to enjoy the P12,000 annual allowance from the City Government.
Cebu election officials expressed its concern a day before the polls when it urged able-bodied voters to help the elderly and PWDs get to their precincts. But that was not enough.
In Guadalupe, the barangay with the biggest population size in Cebu City, some senior citizens were seen moving around by themselves or with a companion, usually a fellow elderly, while looking for their precincts. Walking on uneven road, under an unforgiving sun, they moved from one school building to another with no one to usher them. Precinct watchers tried their best to point voters to the direction of their polling places but were unfamiliar themselves of which building was “Estrada” or “Arroyo.”
The process inside the precinct itself was smooth, but the challenge was, first, how to get there.
A law that allows early voting for seniors and the elderly should be passed before the next election set in 2019.
President Rodrigo Duterte failed to make it before cut-off for voting in the barangay elections. That probably made him the first President to not vote in his country’s elections, without announcing it beforehand. Reason was not clear. Did he wake up late? Did he boycott the elections based on his statements about drug traders and protectors joining the electoral fray? And, if so, why was there no call for others to join the boycott? A boycott is a political statement most effective if backed by many. Whatever the reason, this is not leadership by example.
May 14, 2018
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