Senator Imee Marcos stressed Monday, February 20, the urgency of passing a law on alternative modes of voting for “highly vulnerable sectors” before the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) take place in October this year.
Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, said a relevant law must be passed to allow other vulnerable sectors besides seniors, persons with disabilities (PWDs), pregnant women, and indigenous peoples (IPs) to qualify for early voting.
Passing the law before the Senate recess on March 23 would also give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ample time to install “assistive devices” in voting precincts and provide shuttle services to and from polling places during the BSKE, she added.
“The present lack of facilities and modes of access will disenfranchise thousands upon thousands of voters,” she warned.
“Let's make the BSKE’s postponement from last December worth it,’’ she pointed out.
Marcos filed Senate Bill 1160 in August last year to expand the coverage of Filipinos qualified for early voting, including health workers on duty on election day, hospitalized persons, internally displaced persons due to calamities or local conflict, and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated for reasons beyond their control.
The bill also requires the installation of assistive devices at voting centers, like ramps, railing, sidewalks, sufficient signage and lighting, as well as candidates’ lists in braille.
Every voting center must also provide a designated polling place for the exclusive use of seniors, PWDs, and pregnant women with “no prior manifestation” necessary for them to avail of the said facility.
The Comelec will also be required to provide a system of shuttle services for the same vulnerable sectors to and from voting centers.
“The BSKE will be conducted manually, so the supplemental budget for additional work hours also has to be determined soon,” Marcos said.