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Rainy listup dampens PWD turnout in Baguio

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Text and photos by OFELIA KAYAT

Baguio City — A total of 254 would-be voters turned up to register at the special satellite registration in a mall here Friday.

Dubbed as “No bio, No boto” project of the Commission on Elections, the registration was open to the public, with priority given to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens.

However, only 11 PWDs, along with 12 senior citizens, turned up to register due to the heavy monsoon rains bearing down on the Cordilleras.

The special listup at SM Baguio is part of the city’s National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week. The mall is one of dozens of off-site registration centers nationwide.

Those who came either registered as new voters or filed for reactivation or transfer of their existing voter records.

Election Officer John Paul Martin said the day’s turnout was much higher compared to regular registrations held at their office.

“We have been doing off-site registrations and this is just a modification to it. We know that rain or shine people will go to malls, (that) we will reach a wider group of people,” he said.

Comelec records show that there were 167 registered PWDs in Baguio City during the first quarter of 2015. The 2010 census pegged the total number of PWDs to 1.2 percent or 3,789 of the city’s total household population.

Martin said the Comelec’s conduct of off-site registration in malls and in various barangays will help reduce the number of voters without biometrics, which is estimated at around 8,000 voters.

Priority will always be given to PWDs and the elderly during their registrations, he added.

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Rolando Bitaga, one of the PWDs who braved the rains last Friday, said they were told about the special registration by the City Social Welfare and Development Office. He is a member of the Baguio Organization for the Blind.

“So we came to participate here to be able to vote in 2016 and I also invited other fellow PWDs to register,” he said.

Bitaga, who works as a masseur in a local massage shop, said being part of an active PWD group helps them get information about programs and events from national agencies such as the DSWD during their regular meetings.

“I came to update my registration and to assist my fellow PWDs to also come and register,” he said, referring to two companions also with visual impairment. They registered as new voters.

City Election Assistant Encarnacion Dalilis said they assist the PWDs if they don’t have assistors with them.

“We manage to assist them though sometimes it is tough especially for the deaf who do not have assistors, but we are still able to get information from them,” explained Dalilis, who knows basic sign language.

Dalilis hopes that Comelec’s plan of putting up one special precinct for PWDs and senior citizens for every polling center will be approved.

The special registration was held in partnership with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), the Asia Foundation through the Fully Abled Nation Project, SM Supermalls and SM Cares.