Amidst the raging controversies involving reclusive former officials of COMELEC and their involvement in what is generally believed to be massive election cheating in the south in 2004 and 2007, is a good and heartwarming news about Philippine election.
COMELEC, joining the celebration of the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR)Week, has organized its own Persons With Disabilities (PWD) National Registration Week on July 18 to 23, 2011. This worthy project affords our fellow Filipinos who are PWDs the opportunity to register as voters at satellite offices established in selected SM malls during the week. PWDs who would be first time voters in the next election, transferees, or those who would need to validate their registration are given the opportunity to have their fingerprints and facial photo taken to be included in the COMELEC voter registration biometrics data base.
I have been privileged to observe the PWD registration activities at SM San Lazaro in Manila this morning and it was a heartwarming experience for me. My parents both worked for and with PWDs as social workers and trainors and it really made me proud that I myself am somehow involved, even in an insignificant extent, to the effort of helping our PWD brethren.
On July 12, 2011, COMELEC came out with Resolution No. 9261 providing guidelines for the registration of PWDs in NCR in celebration of the NDPR Week (http://www.comelec.gov.ph/2013%20National_Local/resolutions/res_9261.HTML). This resolution impacts positively on the development of democracy in the country. It is consistent with the rights provided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is also in accord with an internationally recognized norm of a democratic society, that of having an inclusive election process.
This is among the two actions that COMELEC have done to provide practical solutions to PWD’s accessibility problems in relation to the exercise of their right of suffrage. In the 2010 elections, detainees in jail (charged of crimes but have not yet been convicted) were afforded special opportunity to exercise their voting right, a first time in Philippine election history.
These noble and pioneering voting access projects are not perfect and still need a lot improvements. But kudos are definitely already in order for the present COMELEC for what they have so far started. Special congratulations should go to COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, who led and inspired this initiative and who really endeavored to push this through. Special mention should be given to Attys. Erwin Caliba and Rexie Magsano of the Office of Commissioner Sarmiento, Ms. May Butoy of the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES), Atty. Vince Yambao of Libertas, and the various individuals and PWD groups who worked so passionately hard to bring this and other accessibility enhancement activities come into reality.
Pockets of projects like this make me believe that there is still hope in this country.