By Neil Arwin Mercado | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — The House committee on appropriations passed on Wednesday a proposed legislation that would allow early voting for qualified senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in national and local elections.
During the committee’s online meeting, Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrelita Suansing, one of the principal authors of the measure, said the bill authorizes qualified senior citizens and PWDs to cast their vote within seven working days before the date of the elections.
They can vote at accessible polling places designated by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Suansing said.
“The elderly and persons with disabilities are at a disadvantage during election day because of two reasons—one, not all polling places are easily accessible for said groups, and number two, the large number of people in the voting places can be overwhelming,” Suansing said during the meeting.
“Such factors may end up discouraging said groups in casting their vote,” she added.
Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, who is also an author of the measure, pointed out that currently, a polling precinct handles some 1,000 voters.
“It’s difficult for our seniors to be with them, and our PWDs is because certainly, they are very vulnerable,” Rodriguez said.
Nueva Ecija 3rd District Rep. Ria Vergara, however, raised concerns of possible abuse in the measure. She asked what would happen if a person has a valid PWD identification card due to a temporary injury that has healed by the time of the early voting.
“I’m just worried that they might use that as a way to register to avail of this whole thing but if you assure me that it’s, it has to be based on permanent disabilities then I have no problem,” Vergara said.
To avoid abuse, Suansing explained that the measure states that seniors and PWDs who seek to vote early still need to register ahead of time.
“In the registration with the municipalities or provinces, they have to qualify if the person is temporarily incapacitated or disabled,” she said.
According to the Comelec, there are 8,586,509 senior citizen voters and 350,049 PWD voters in the country based on 2019 records.