IN her almost 20 years as an election assistant, Neri Bejar had never gotten the chance to work with persons with disabilities (PWDs)—not until last year.
The Commission on Elections held its first-ever special registration for PWDs in July that year, and Bejar, who had moved from the poll body’s headquarters to its Quezon City office, manned the registration desk at SM North.
She thus knew exactly what to do when she showed up for duty at the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral in Quezon City, which was designated one of the sites for the special PWD voter registration held nationwide on Aug. 11.
The assistance and understanding she and other election personnel gave the PWDs were necessary, Bejar said, “so that we do not discriminate on their right as Filipinos.” In this case, their right to vote.
Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said Comelec personnel have become part of the “dramatic shift in how PWDs (are) viewed and accepted.”
In fact, so enthusiastic are Comelec personnel about getting PWDs to exercise their right of suffrage that they have told Sarmiento that Comelec “should have done this a long time ago.”
*Note: Registration of voters, including PWDs, is ongoing until Oct. 31 at the local Comelec offices.
(This Webisode is part of Reporting on Persons With Disability, a project of VERA Files and Unlimited Productions Inc. in partnership with The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development.)