PWD’s Are Helped by Civil Society to Vote in Coming Polls

Members of the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) residing in Western Mindanao were challenged to go out and vote on the forthcoming midterm election.

The challenge was made by Maribel Buenaobra, Director for Programs of The Asia Foundation, Inc. during the launching of the campaign for the Fully-Abled Nation (F.A.N. Day) at Centro Pastoral Complex, Gov. Camins Avenue on February 15.

“We are encouraging you to cast your vote on the May 2013 election,” Buenaobra said to over a hundred of PWDs coming from the different areas Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga Del Sur and Zamboanga Del Norte.

During the launching Buenaobra stressed to the PWDs that they should not pity themselves but rather to reinforce upon themselves their rights. The launching was also participated in by some government line agencies and civil society organizations.

She also said that a study shows that due to low self-esteem only a few go out to exercise their right of suffrage despite the fact that they are registered voters .

The launching was also packed with a disability sensitivity workshop and informational campaign for the coming May election.

The Asia Foundation, an international non government organization based in San Francisco, with the strong support from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Foundation for Communication Initiatives (FOCI) is implementing a three year program to increase the participation of the PWD in the 2013 Philippine midterm elections.

The foundation collaborate with PWDs, disabled people’s organization (DPOS), Commission on Election (COMELEC), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and other elections-focused NGOs to increase awareness of the COMELEC and local government units on the needs and concerns of PWDs. It also provides recommendations to the COMELEC to increase PWDs’ access to registration sites and polling places in order to reduce or remove constraints that PWD voters face to freely exercise their right to vote.

Criselle Capistrano, Managing Director of FOCI, revealed that the F.A.N. Day was a product of a thorough consultation with many sectors in the community.

“Our goal is to see all of you overcome your ailments,” she said the participants. “It is important among the PWDs that should know you are Filipinos.”

In assuring the convenience of the voters with disabilities while at their polling centers during the election day, Jesus Alvin Lim, the Election Officer for District 1 of Zamboanga City, said that they will see to it that the precinct numbers of these PWDs will be located at the ground level and probably they will set up a ramp for them.

He also reported that in the city, there are more than 100 PWDs registered voters scattered in the two districts of the city.

“On election day we will give special attention not only to the PWDs but to senior citizens and to the pregnant women as well,” Lim assured.

COMELEC Resolution 9485 or the “Rules and Regulations for Voting of PWDs and For the Establishment of Accessible Voting Places in May 2013 Elections” seeks to establish polling places for PWDs who are registered as “disabled or a person with disability” in their registration forms on the ground floor of voting centers in existing precincts. It also states that the “polling place shall be established in an area spacious enough to accommodate more that 10 PWD votes at a given time, considering the mobility requirements of PWDs particularly those who are wheelchair users”

Teddy Kahil, PWD president in the city, expressed his elation to the group for the efforts in advocating for the rights of the PWDs. “We are glad that the other groups coming from different sectors encourage us to go out to vote,” the visually impaired Kahil said.

Aside from Zamboanga City, F.A.N. Day was also conducted in the cities of Manila, Legazpi, Cotabato, Davao, La Union, Ilo-Ilo, Dumaguete and Iligan.

In wrapping up, Inday Varona of the ABS-CBN’s Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo trained the PWDs on how to be a citizen journalist.

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