100 Mabolo senior citizens, PWDs to vote inside mall for barangay polls
An air-conditioned mall in Cebu City will be the site of an exclusive polling precinct for handpicked senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) as part of a pilot test during the October 28 barangay elections.
One hundred residents of barangay Mabolo – 97 seniors and three PWDs – were chosen by random through computer selection by the Commission on Elections for the pilot in SM City Cebu.
“We need to conduct a pilot test to identify all the challenges before we can expand this for the national elections in 2016,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, who flew in from Manila for the project.
Cebu City is one of four pilot sites in the country. The others are Manila, Lipa City in Batangas for Luzon,and General Santos City in Mindanao.
Michael Bontuyan, 65 and his wife Esterlima, 64, of precinct 697-A in Mabolo were the first to come forward to fill up consent forms.
“Okay ra sad ni nga ing-ani kay kanang matag election pirmi na lang me malabyan and mabangga-an sa kadaghan nga tawo,” Esterlima said.
(This will be a good setup for us because every election, we are overlooked and we get pushed by the crowds. It’s also hot.)
Her spouse said he was used to voting at the Mabolo Elementary School.
“Mabag-uhan man ko sa SM pero sige na lang. Dili man sad mi nila biyaan. Naa man sad mag assist sa amoa didto. (Going to SM is new for me, but I’ll give it a try. Anywy, there will be people to assist us.)
The couple told Cebu Daily News it usually took them more than one and a half hour to cast their vote in past elections, so they expect the pilot site to be an easier experience.
The pilot is part of the roll-out of Republic Act 10366, which contains implementing rules of the law to establish precincts in “accessible polling places” for senior citizens and PWDs who request to vote there.
The setup was not used in the May local-national elections for lack of time since the law was passed in Feb. 15, 2013.
Barangay Mabolo, one of the city’s biggest barangays, was chosen because of its population which includes 16,000 senior citizens, as well as its access to SM City.
The selected beneficiaries come from precincts 682A, 697A, and 697B.
“We understand how they feel about voting in a hot area, and having to fall in line and waiting to vote. And sometimes, they lose interest and don’t want to vote anymore,” said Jimenez.
The precinct will be near one of the large lobbies of SM but the exact location has still to be finalized. Local Comelec staff will be around to assist them.
Jimenez and Comelec staff yesterday briefed some of the chosen senior citizens in Mabolo Elementary School and asked them to sign consent forms. However, none of the selected PWDs were present.
Jimenez and staff later visited the target voters in their homes to make sure all of them were informed.
On election day, ten Comelec staff will be around to assist the seniors citizens and PWDs at the SM precinct, even if they come with their own companions.
“Caregivers and escorts are allowed to assist them but these companions can’t vote at the precinct in SM City because this will be exclusive for the 100 voters,” said Jimenez.
Voting will still be manual. Comelec staff will set up the precinct at 7 a.m. and by 12 noon, it will be open to receive the special voters at 1 p.m.
The poll body still has to decide whether to provide free transportation, which would need an exemption.
If a selected voter declines to join, the Comelec can give the slot to those who want it “since there are others who want to experience this new project,” Jimenez said.
Meanwhile, the Comelec warned those who already filed their Certificate of Candidacy (COC) to avoid premature campaigning.
Jimenez said a monitoring team started its work yesterday of documenting cases of erring candidates who have posted unlawful campaign materials.
“We will give a warning to those involved and they will face disqualification by the Comelec,” he added.
But so far, no complaints have been received by the Comelec, he said.
Jimenez said he didn’t notice any illegal tarpaulins or banners when he and his team drove through several areas in Cebu City.
“Maybe I went to the wrong area,” he added.