Seniors, be counted!

Published September 13, 2020, 10:16 PM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


The May 9, 2022 presidential election  is just around the corner and registration for new voters is currently on-going.  There was a pronouncement last week from the Philippine National Police discouraging elderly residents from going to the Comelec offices to register. However, a simple solution to that concern is for Comelec to designate a specific day of the week where only elderly applicants and individuals below the age of 21 will be serviced and whose applications will be processed.  Key is to continually enhance the process for the processing of applications for voter registration.

But servicing the elderly should not be limited to just registration.  Just recently, Rep. Stella Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City) filed a bill which, if it becomes a law, will have a huge impact on the way the May, 2022, elections will be conducted.  House Bill 7572 is “AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A SYSTEM OF POSTAL VOTING BY SENIOR CITIZENS AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR.

The bill seeks to allow registered voters who will be 60years old on or before May 9, 2022 to vote via registered mail, instead of congregating in the sometimes-overcrowded voting centers on election day.  Under the proposal, the procedure in essence is:

  1. Qualified elderly voters must register their intention to vote via mail thru post.
  2. The official ballot including the following will be sent to the qualified registered elderly voter 45 days before election day.
  3. The senior citizen voter fills up the ballot in front of an authorized witness.
  4. The senior citizen voter performs the necessary steps to authenticate the ballot.
  5. The senior citizen voter sends back the ballot to Comelec following the instructions issued by the commission.
  6. Ballots received fifteen (15) days before election day will be counted by Comelec.

The idea itself is very commendable. All over the world now, countries are trying to find ways to decongest the voting centers on election day.  Specifically, in the USA, more and more states are shifting to mail-in ballots, with some states making it mandatory to send out mail-in ballots, in order to facilitate a more convenient way of voting, and to minimize people going out and congregating on election day.

In the Philippines mail-in balloting is not new. It’s been a practice for a long time.  Even back when national elections were still manual.  But the scope of those covered was limited.

The bill is timely because it seeks to address a growing concern of Filipinos as to the health and welfare of the voters who are elderly.  This early, some are already debating as to whether they should go to the voting centers on election day, with the possibility of a threat of the virus still hanging over our heads.

By allowing voters who are over 60 years old on election day, it will not only decongest the voting centers, but will encourage the elderly voters to cast their votes.  I have to note though that, as with previous LAV (Local Absentee Voting), the voters can vote for only national candidates/positions.  These are: president (1), vice-president (1), senators (12), party-List (1).

In the proposal, qualified senior citizen voters will not vote for local elective positions. That’s important.  Allowing voting for local positions will make it exponentially more complicated.  IMHO, sticking to national positions is possibly the best path to take.  For those who wish to insist on voting for local elective positions, they can still do so.  They simply do not register for mail-in voting and will vote on election day in the same voting center they’ve been voting in previous elections (unless Comelec changes to a more spacious voting location – we’ll discuss this issue in a future column).

There are some possible modifications in the process of implementing the innovation, nuances in the bill which I think could be best discussed when the bill comes up for consideration in the committee. I’ve spoken with the office of Rep. Stella Quimbo, and they’ve been very receptive to discussing how to make it feasible to implement.

This is one bill which should be given priority.  Because by giving it the attention it deserves, we are re-iterating the importance of the voice of our elderly.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.  Make your voice count.