MANILA, Philippines—Senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and pregnant women have been provided a set of privileges to make voting in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Election easier this year.
In past elections, senior citizens, PWDs, and even pregnant women found themselves in a tough spot as they encountered multiple barriers, including long queues and the lack of proper and accessible facilities.
A survey by the nongovernmental organization Upholding Life and Nature (ULAN) detailed that in 1,326 voting centers across the country, among the documented election day woes for Filipinos with disabilities were:
- PWDs and senior citizens were reassigned to upper floors
- long queues
- PWD voters were presumed to be illiterate
For the barangay and SK elections this year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has implemented “voting privileges” to provide ease in voting for senior citizens, PWDs, and pregnant women.
According to data from the Comelec Vulnerable Sectors Office, across the country, there are 11,255,189 senior citizens and 453,851 PWDs who are registered to vote for the barangay and SK elections.
Comelec said all polling places will have priority or express lanes to give way for senior citizens, PWDs, and pregnant women.
The sector can also avail itself of the following:
- Access Polling Places (APPs): APPs are set up in the most accessible part of a voting center and are located on the ground floor — preferably near the entrance — to make voting easier and more convenient for vulnerable sector voters.
These ensure that registered senior citizens and PWDs, who have initially stated that they will vote in the APP, are grouped in one precinct and transferred to the most accessible room of the voting center.
At least 7,440 APPs are set up in voting centers nationwide.
- Emergency Accessible Polling Places (EAPPs): These are special polling places established for senior citizens, PWDs, and pregnant women so they would no longer be required to walk farther or go to higher floors to cast their votes.
The EAPP voting hours are from 7 AM to 1 PM only.
Comelec said there are 2,442 EAPPs established in 2,067 voting centers.
- Satellite-Emergency Polling places are also set up in selected locations: the National Vocational Rehabilitation Center, Hospicio de San Jose, and Tahanang Walang Hagdan in Cainta, Rizal.
There will also be pilot tests held in Muntinlupa City and Naga City, where senior citizens, PWDs, pregnant women, and their assistors or companions are given the privilege to vote from 5:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the morning on election day.
According to Comelec, senior citizens, and PWDs may be assisted by the following, in the order provided:
- a relative by consanguinity or affinity within the 4th civil degree;
- by any person of their confidence who belongs to the same household (e.g., personal caregiver and nurse);
- a Department of Education Supervisor Official (DESO) EAPP/EAPP Support Staff;
- a member of the Electoral Board (EB) in the case of the EAPP Voting Center
All assistors or qualified companions of senior citizens and PWDs must also be of voting age.
Only members of the EB and EAPP Voting Center are allowed to assist more than three voters availing of the EAPP.