By EMIL BENJAMIN TAPNIO
AS the Philippines gears up for 2013 midterm elections in May, last week in Zamboanga city, persons with disabilities came out in full force to discuss achievements and challenges ahead of election day. Up until now, this group has been wholly underrepresented at the polls.
Indeed, this election is expected to test reforms that have been implemented in the past three years since the May 2010 presidential elections, including the synchronization of national and ARMM elections, strengthening voting capacity of vulnerable sectors such as persons with disabilities (PWDs), prisoners, and indigenous peoples, and the full automation of the national election.
For over 19 months, The Asia Foundation, with support from The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), has been in the forefront of driving better participation in the upcoming elections through the Fully Abled Nation (FAN) initiative, a disability-inclusive elections program that increases participation of PWDs in the May 2013 elections and other democratic processes. According to COMELEC figures, 65,972 new PWDs voters have registered from July 2011 until Oct. 31, 2012, the end of registration period, on top of approximately 350,000 old PWD voters.