WITH the cancellation of “mall voting” , senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Wednesday urged the Commission on Elections to guarantee sufficient Accessible Polling Place (APP) as a form of “malasakit” (compassion) to persons with disabilities and senior citizens, and priority lanes for pregnant women during the May 9 presidential election.
Romualdez, leader of the House Independent Bloc, said specialized voting place under Republic Act 10366, otherwise known as “An Act Authorizing the Comelec to Establish Precincts Assigned to Accessible Polling Places Exclusively for Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizens” must be fully implemented.
“This is our way of showing malasakit to elderly and PWDs and we should ensure a hassle-free voting place that is exclusive for them,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez’s statement came as he lamented the announcement of Comelec chair Andres Bautista that the poll body’s en banc voted 4-3 reversing its 6-1 ruling last March 10 that allowed mall voting.
“At the same time, we call on the Comelec to put a priority lane for pregnant women as a matter of malasakit to their condition,” Romualdez, who was credited for the enactment of the measure exempting more than 1.5-million PWDs from the payment of 12-percent value added tax on certain goods and services, he said.
The Comelec cited legal concern under Omnibus Election Code which provides that the transfer of a polling precinct should be approved 45 days before the elections.
The mall voting has a total of 231,174 electorate who will cast their votes in designated 80 malls from 10 companies for the May 9 general elections.
Based on a minute resolution dated Dec. 23, 2015, the Comelec approved the recommendation to create a consolidated project of precincts with APP instead of creating the specialized precincts.
Under this, senior citizens and PWDs will “accomplish the ballots in the polling place together with the other voters assigned to the cluster.”
However, the Comelec gave assurance that a separate area in the polling place shall be assigned for the exclusive use of the elderly and PWDs in accomplishing their ballots.
Assistive devices and experts’ services will also be given to the PWDs who need some help.
Under the law, the Comelec is authorized to create at least one APP exclusive for senior citizens and PWDs in a voting center.
Romualdez said he is hopeful that the Comelec will be able to provide conducive APPS for the PWDs, senior citizens and even pregnant women amidst the expected jam-packed polling precincts on May 9.