By JAKE SORIANO
COTABATO City — The May 2016 presidential elections are less than a year away, but only a handful of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are eligible to vote.
More than 100,000 PWDs of voting age are still not registered or have not validated their registration for next year, said the ARMM coalition of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) based on its estimates.
The poll watchdog said it would seek them out to get them to exercise their right to vote.The nationwide registration ends on Oct. 31.
“PWDs are among the most neglected sectors of society,” said Fr. David Procalla, PPCRV regional coordinator for Mindanao and the ARMM.
PPCRV said it would gather data on the exact number of PWDs in the region from certified voters lists and barangay visits by their personnel.
“With that, we identify the registered and the non-registered,” Procalla said.“And we will identify who among those already registered have complied with the biometrics requirement.”
Republic Act No. 10367, signed in February 2013, requires the digital capture of a registrant’s photograph, fingerprints and signature.
Those without such biometrics, or with incomplete ones, would be deactivated from the list of voters. They would therefore be unable to vote in 2016.
Only 4,221 PWDs are registered to vote in ARMM, data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), as of April 2015, show.Advocates who have tried to get the remaining members of the sector to exercise their right to vote have encountered many challenges in the past.
In 2012, Comelec allowed PWDs in ARMM to register but failed to provide the crucial supplemental form where they could input the types of assistance they would require on elections day. (See Comelec fails to provide crucial PWD forms)
Meanwhile, advocates in the region last year raised concerns over difficulties faced by PWD voters. These include lack of information dissemination, inaccessibility of polling precincts, and security problems. (See PWD-inclusive ARMM polls sought)
The 2016 national electoral exercise is crucial for ARMM voters not only because residents are to elect the highest officials of the country. Depending on how deliberations in Congress go, the plebiscite to determine the creation and scope of the planned Bangsamoro territory could also happen next year.
“PPCRV would watch over the plebiscite as well if it pushes through, said Mahdie Amella, PPCRV Maguindanao coordinator.
The House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has approved the proposed measure on May 20, and administration solons are hoping it gets approved on its third and final reading before the House adjourns this week.
There is less support for the law in its present form in the Senate, however. At least 12 senators are of the view that the draft BBL needs substantial revisions to be constitutional.
“Kaming mga taga Maguindanao ay very optimistic na maipapasa itong Bangsamoro Basic Law (We from Maguindanao are very optimistic of the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law),” said Amella.
“Ito yung nakikita nating paraan na magkaroon ng kapayapaan dito sa Mindanao (We see this as key to finally having peace in Mindanao).”