By ARTHA KIRA PAREDES
COTABATO CITY— Election officers in Maguindanao say priority and fast lanes will be set aside for persons with disabilities, senior citizens and pregnant women as part of government’s move to make polling places “accessible” on election day on Monday.
But the special lanes aren’t enough, they are the first to admit, as many hindrances have long made elections inaccessible not only to these voters, but also majority of the province’s 482,947 registered voters.
“Dito pagka accessible, basta mapuntahan lang (As long as we can reach the precinct, then it is accessible),” Maguindanao Provincial Election Supervisor lawyer Udtog Tago said as he explained the difficulties and challenges both voters and the boards of election tellers (BET) in the province face every elections. Monday’s barangay elections will be no different.
Passed this year, Republic Act 10366 authorizes the Commission on Elections to establish accessible polling places exclusively for PWDs and senior citizens.
Comelec on Aug. 30 passed Resolution 9763 or implementing rules and regulations that specifies a PWD-friendly voting precinct and the types of assistance that PWDs may avail during the conduct of elections.
But Tago pointed to Maguindanao’s topography and peace and order situation as among the biggest foes of accessibility.
Accessibility in the province “has its own meaning” and understanding what it means requires a “different frame of mind,” the election supervisor said.