Teachers also help voters with disabilities | Inquirer News

Teachers also help voters with disabilities

/ 01:56 AM October 29, 2013

Teachers were not only shepherding an orderly balloting, they were also helping people with disabilities (PWDs) to vote and coming to the rescue of the harassed.

At President Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, teachers and school staff had an additional duty—to assist people with disabilities, or PWDs, in exercising their right to vote.

“We tasked our able-bodied males to help our senior citizens in getting to their polling precincts. So when they spot elderly voters, our men are ready to help them,” said Elvira Dumlao, the school principal.


The school has the largest voting population in the city with over 36,000 registered voters. At noon, the turnout was estimated to be at 30 percent.


Dumlao formed a “peaceful election committee” of teachers assigned to nonelection-related tasks. They help the elderly, those with disabilities and pregnant women.

Senior citizens have to be assisted in going up the staircase to reach their polling precincts, some located on the fourth floor of the building. Precincts for the PWDs were set up on the ground floor, along with priority lanes.

“I asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for a list of disabled voters. They only identified 26 out of 36,000. Can you believe that? So we set up precincts on the ground floor for them,” she told reporters.

One-man help center

At Pinyahan Elementary School in Barangay (village) Pinyahan, also in Quezon City, principal Cesar Retes stood near the gates to act as a one-man assistance center for voters. “I enjoy being outside and ready to answer voters’ queries,” he said.

At Jose P. Laurel Sr. High School in Project 4, Quezon City, which has 140 PWDs registered, officials had to improvise and allow them to cast ballots at the lobby.


“We no longer have a list of PWDs unlike in the May elections when the Comelec furnished us their names. The clustering of the precincts now is all mixed up and we had to make a manual accounting of the PWDs,” the school principal and election supervisor, Florito Gereña, told the Inquirer.

“Our election tellers and inspectors only find out the voter is a PWD as soon as he or she turns up at the precinct,” he lamented, adding that 50 PWDs assigned to a school should have been enough to alert the Comelec.

PWD voters at the school are mostly from the Ephpheta Foundation for the Blind at the National Vocational Rehabilitation Center in Barangay Escopa III, Project 4.

“We were promised a room for PWDs would be set up at the ground floor, but now we do not even have a list. We were left with neither, because the Comelec has to approve the designation of a polling precinct for PWDs” he said.

But for 45-year-old amputee Zofronio Villota, of Barangay Escopa III, whose right leg has been cut off from the knee and whose precinct was on the second floor, ascending the narrow flight of stairs aided by his crutches was no problem. “As long as I can vote, it’s no trouble at all,” he said.

Seven wheelchair-bound PWDs, however, could not make it to the second floor and were allowed to vote at the lobby.

Trash collection

The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation deployed personnel at polling places in Quezon City to collect election trash.

Vilma Miras, who has been with the foundation for three years, waited outside Jose P. Laurel Sr. High School with a large plastic bag already filled with plastic bottles, sample ballots and campaign flyers that were supposed to have been already prohibited on election day.

“This helps out a little to keep the surroundings clean. The voters will throw away the flyers and sample ballots anyway so they might as well throw it our way for recycling,” she said. Ten of them were deployed around the school.

The Quezon City Public School Teachers Association set up a hotline for teachers on poll duty to report incidents of harassment, election fraud and delays in the turnover of election paraphernalia.

Orlando Santos, the group’s administrative officer, said the hotline was set up precisely to protect teachers who serve as election tellers and officers and are only paid a P2,000 honorarium and P500 transportation allowance.

Santos said that they received a distress call on Monday morning from a private school teacher appointed as a board of elections teller and members of a support staff who were allegedly harassed in Barangay Apolonio Samson because they did not have Comelec IDs, although they had appointment papers from the election supervisor.

“They were mobbed by poll watchers and brought to the barangay hall so they could be charged with electioneering. They were held there for 30 minutes and we had to go there and clear up things with the poll watchers,” he said, adding that they had to explain that the appointment papers were as good as the Comelec ID.

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The problem was sorted out, as most other hitches they had encountered in the course of polling day.—With a report from Erika Sauler

TAGS: Politics, Teachers

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