Estrada wants special polling precincts for PWDs, elderly institutionalized

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Senator Jinggoy Estrada has filed a bill to make the special polling precincts for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens a standard component in election sites.

Emphasizing the need to ensure that polling places nationwide are easily accessible, the legislator filed Senate Bill No. 1642 to amend Republic Act No. 10366 or An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Establish Precincts Assigned to Accessible Polling Places Exclusively for PWDs and Senior Citizens.

“The unfortunate low turnout for the sector underscores the importance and the urgency to strengthen the law ensuring accessibility of our polling places,” reads the Explanatory Note in the bill filed in January.

“Ultimately, this legislation aims to protect every voter’s constitutional right to suffrage and to promote a more inclusive participation in the important democratic exercise,” it added.

RA No. 10366 states the necessary infrastructure, more features, and special venues of precincts to address the vulnerable group’s needs and concerns.

But Estrada said “clearer language” in the law is needed.

The senator proposed to state in Section 2 (j) of RA No. 10366 that special polling precincts should be readily accessible to public transport, free of physical barriers, and provided with needed infrastructure and services such as ramps, railings, and adequate lighting.

Estrada likewise suggested setting up special polling precincts for PWDs and the elderly in public schools, town halls or plazas, community centers and the like to ensure safety and comfort for the vulnerable group.

The senator also lamented that several senior citizens continue disenfranchised from casting their votes.

Citing the 2019 polls, Estrada said that only three percent or 200,000 of the 8 million eligible senior citizens had voted.