By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY (19-Oct-2012/PNA) – The regional office for Bicol of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) here is enjoining Persons With Disability (PWDs) in the region who are eligible voters to register in the ongoing registration as they will be given special access to polling places in the 2013 midterm elections.
Comelec regional director Zacarias Zaragoza on Thursday said PWDs in all the region’s 3,471 barangays should not hesitate now from registering and voting in the May 2013 local and senatorial elections as they will be accorded special treatments like easy access to their respective polling precincts.
There are thousands of qualified voters in Bicol who have ignored past elections because they found it difficult to access the polling places given their physical disabilities but this time, Zaragoza said they should come out to register and vote next year as the Comelec is making it easy for them.
The ongoing voter’s registration will end on October 31 and should PWDs find it difficult to go to registration offices in the municipality where they belong, the satellite registration centers set up by the Comelec in several barangays in the region are there to serve them, Zaragoza said.
These satellite registration centers have been organized to offer services in remote areas so that registrants are eased of the burden of traveling to their respective municipal election registrar offices that are usually located at the town center.
The Comelec is doing this to reach even the remotest barangays and encourage qualified voters to register so as to maximize the number of registered voters in the region for the next elections, Zaragoza explained.
Registered voters in the region in the 2010 elections totaled 2,857,925 but this number has been dramatically reduced following the recent purging conducted by the Comelec which eliminated from the voters’ list over 200,000 names of persons who have either died or failed to vote in the past two elections.
Zaragoza said the idea of giving special access to polling places for PWDs was raised to the Comelec regional office by several groups looking after the welfare of disabled persons.
In Albay, the moves are spearheaded by the provincial government headed by Governor Joey Salceda who had been working on giving PWDs the necessary assistance to enable the sector to exercise their rights of suffrage as part of the provincial administration’s full recognition of their participation in the development process.
Under this initiative, the province has launched a program designed to increase the participation of PWDs in the 2013 midterm elections and all the other coming electoral processes.
The program dubbed “A Fully-Abled Nation” intends to increase voter awareness among PWDs and strengthen the capabilities of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) supporting advocacies for the welfare of the sector.
Supported by the Asia Foundation, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Comelec, local government units (LGUs), NGOs and civil society groups, the program also promotes partnerships to enhance support and awareness of PWDs’ participatory needs. (PNA)