SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading a bill providing for early voting of qualified senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in national and local elections to make the voting process more comfortable and convenient for them.
Through the motions of Deputy Speaker Sharon S. Garin (Party-list, AAMBIS-OWA) and Rep. Cristina Roa-Puno (1st District, Antipolo City), the House approved House Bill 5661 in the plenary last May 29, 2017.
The bill aims to enhance the voting process to make it more comfortable and convenient for the voters, particularly PWDs and senior citizens, by giving them the option to vote earlier than the date set for election.
Section 2 of the bill provides that for the national and local elections, there shall be early voting, where a qualified senior citizen or a PWD may choose to cast his ballot at accessible establishments designated by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) within seven working days before the date set for the election.
The bill also provides that there shall be a nationwide registration for senior citizens and PWDs who wish to avail of their early voting privileges. Those who are not registered under the Act shall vote on election day itself.
The COMELEC is mandated to keep a record of senior citizens and PWDs who are registered voters.
The COMELEC shall also coordinate with local government units (LGUs), the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to design a registration system that will allow senior citizens and PWDs to register and opt for early voting in order to improve their voting experience in national and local elections.
Moreover, the COMELEC shall ensure the full implementation of Republic Act 10366, entitled “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Establish Precincts Assigned to Accessible Polling Places Exclusively for Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizens”, such that polling places for senior citizens and PWDs are safe, highly accessible and fitted with the necessary communication, visual and physical aids, and other forms of assistance where senior citizens and PWDs may be able to cast their votes with ease.
Lastly, the COMELEC shall mount an intensive information campaign on early voting for qualified senior citizens and PWDs.
The amount necessary to fund implementation of the Act shall be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the corresponding fiscal year.
The provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 or the Omnibus Election Code, Republic Act 7166, entitled “An Act Providing for Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms, Authorizing Appropriations Therefor, and for Other Purposes,” and other election laws not inconsistent herewith shall be applied to facilitate the early voting of senior citizens and PWDs.
House Bill 5661 earlier substituted: HB 5019 authored by Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, expanding the coverage of absentee voting to PWDs and senior citizens; HB 45 by Deputy Speaker and Marikina City Second District Rep. Romero Quimbo, authorizing the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to establish precincts assigned to accessible polling places exclusively for PWDs and senior citizens; HB 743 by Rep. Emmiline Y. Aglipay Villar (Partylist-DIWA), providing for qualified early voting for senior citizens, PWDs, and workers required to work on election day; HB 1371, providing for local absentee voting for lawyers, HB 1372, providing for local absentee voting for PWDs, and HB 1373, providing for local absentee voting for senior citizens by Rep. Angelina D.L. Tan (4th District, Quezon); HBs 2486 and 2487, providing for local absentee voting for senior citizens and PWDs, respectively, by Reps. Estrellita B. Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija) and Horacio P. Suansing Jr. (2nd District, Sultan Kudarat); and HB 4539, providing for early voting for the national and local elections, by Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez Jr. (2nd District,Cagayan de Oro City).
“This bill seeks to allow persons with disabilities and senior citizens to vote under the local absentee voting system,” Alvarez said.
The Speaker said that absentee voting system laws were passed as means to increase participation of citizens who are in situations which prevent them to vote. Alvarez explained that Executive Order No.157, Series of 1987 was issued by a past administration to provide for absentee voting by officers and employees of government who are away from their places of registration by reason of official function on election day.
Alvarez said Republic Act No.10380 was also passed into law to expand the coverage of the local absentee voting by including members of the media, media practitioners, and their staff, who are registered voters, and who, on election day, may not be able to vote due to the performance of their functions.
Other authors of the bill include Deputy Speakers Sharon S. Garin (Party-list, AAMBIS-OWA) and Gwendolyn F. Garcia (3rd District, Cebu), appropriations committee chairman Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles (1st District, Davao City), Reps. Edward Vera Perez Maceda (4th District,Manila), Anthony M. Bravo (Party-list, COOP-NATCCO), Joseph Stephen S. Paduano (Party-list, ABANG LINGKOD ), Aniceto “John” D. Bertiz III (Party-list, ACTS-OFW), Pablo C. Ortega (1st District, La Union), Luisa Lloren Cuaresma (Lone District, Nueva Vizcaya), France L. Castro (Party-list, ACT TEACHERS), Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin), Josephine Ramirez-Sato (Lone District, Occidental Mindoro), Raul V. Del Mar (1st District, Cebu City), Mohamamd Khalil Q. Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte), Michael John R. Duavit (1st District, Rizal), Oscar S. Garin, Jr. (1st District, Iloilo), Paolo S. Javier (Lone District, Antique), Doy C. Leachon (1st District, Oriental Mindoro), Joey Sarte Salceda (2nd District, Albay ), Gil P. Acosta (3rd District, Palawan), Dakila Carlo E. Cua (Lone District, Quirino), Ann K. Hofer (2nd District, Zamboanga Sibugay), Jocelyn S. Limkaichong (1st District, Negros Oriental), Ma.Lucille M. Nava (Lone District, Guimaras), Vilma Santos-Recto (6th District, Batangas), Noel L. Villanueva (3rd District,Tarlac), Maria Carmen S. Zamora (1st District, Compostela Valley), John Marvin “Yul Servo” C. Nieto (3rd District, Manila), Harlin Neil J. Abayon III (Party-list, AANGAT TAYO), and Maria Vida E. Bravo (1st District, Masbate). / ICY JR.