By Sherrie Ann Torres | ABS-CBN News
MANILA - Only 200,000 of the 8 million senior citizen registered voters actually voted during the 2019 elections, Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms chair Imee Marcos said Monday.
Marcos pointed this out during Monday’s Senate hearing which centered on proposed bills that seek to allow senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to cast their votes, 2 days before the actual election day.
Coalition for the Elderly’s Maria Karina Menses blamed the low turnout to the senior citizens' and PWDs difficulty of finding their polling precinct, going up to their polling area, and disenfranchisement.
"Maraming nawalang boto na senior citizens... Problema, nawawala pangalan sa presinto ng senior citizens knowing na may special presinto... 'Pag pumupunta roon, hindi nila ma-locate yung kanilang pangalan," Menses said.
Menses projects the number of senior citizen voters in the 2022 elections would increase between 9 million to 10 million.
Director Teofisto Elnas of the Comelec Operations Office relayed the commission’s intention to also include pregnant women and indigenous people’s in the advance day of voting, but Marcos remained non-committal.
During last year’s elections, the Comelec was able to set up a total of 4,138 accessible polling places (APPs).
The low number of APPs, according to Elnas, was caused by the low turnout of senior citizens and PWDs who registered in the system during their given period.
The NAMFREL has already submitted a recommended process to the committee for a simpler registration for senior citizens and PWDs.
LENTE’s Atty. Rona Ann Caritos recommended that polling precincts be given to senior citizens once they register.
“Our proposal is to consider this modality to all voters... Ayaw nilang bumoto ng nakahiwalay sila sa pamilya, kapit-bahay... kasi di raw nila nararamdaman ang kasayahan pag eleksyon. Baka kailangang pag-aralan.. baka may cultural issue,” she said.
Senator Nancy Binay, meantime, pushed for the conduct of online registration for the same purpose.
"Sana next year may online registration na dahil sa problema sa COVID… Napaka-urgent ng need kasi suspended ang registration in light of this pandemic," Binay said.
Part of the agenda also include the classification of billboards and social media as another form of mass media during the campaign.
Comelec spokesperson Director James Jimenez said using billboards as campaign platform should only be allowed for national candidates and not local, as this will result in the putting up of billboards left and right if both groups will be allowed.
"Kung kasama ang LGU candidates, wala na tayong makikita sa lugar natin kundi puro billboard," he said.
Also considered for discussion was the bill on the anti-political dynasty which the Comelec said must also include barangay positions.
Senators Francis Tolentino, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel and Marcos, meantime, insisted that filing of COC must be moved from October to January to avoid politicians from taking advantage to conduct premature campaigning.