Marikina City Representative Stella Quimbo on Wednesday filed a measure authorizing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow senior citizens to vote by mail from their own homes amid the threat of COVID-19.
In a virtual press conference, Quimbo announced that she has filed House Bill 7572 to ensure that the pandemic will not be a hindrance in the democratic process during elections, especially for senior citizens.
According to Quimbo, the lack of vaccine against or cure for COVID-19 in the future may stretch the pandemic for a long time, affecting the conduct of the elections in 2022.
"We cannot allow the disenfranchisement of our elderly population just because there is an ongoing pandemic. Masisiguro po ng postal voting para sa mga may edad ang pagtataguyod sa kanilang karapatang bumoto samantalang naaalagaan ang kanilang sarili," she said.
"Rights like suffrage are inherent in a democratic country like ours. Kaya tungkulin ng gobyerno na protektahan ang kanyang mamamayan pati ang kanilang karapatan, may pandemya man o wala. This measure will allow the government, especially the Comelec, to do just that," she added.
Although her proposed manner of voting is new for the Philippines, Quimbo said other countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand have already been practicing postal voting.
South Korea, in fact, was able to conduct its parliamentary election in April this year without a local transmission of COVID-19 partly due to the "home voting" option for the vulnerable sectors of their society, she added.
"Ngunit kahit wala nang COVID, dapat pa rin isulong ang panukalang ito. Hindi na dapat mapagod ang senior citizen sa pagboto. Kung maaari, wala na dapat kaso ng hinimatay o nahirapan huminga dahil sa mahabang pila at siksikan sa halalan," Quimbo said.
"Mangyayari lamang ito kung bibigyan natin ang mga senior citizen ng pagkakataong bumoto sa bahay at ipadala na lang sa Comelec ang balota," she added.
Quimbo said Comelec already has a system for postal voting as it already receives ballots this way from overseas Filipino workers who cast their vote from the countries they are in. The election commission only needs to adopt the same system for senior citizens.
"We have to tear down obstacles to voting. Suitable electoral reforms are genuinely needed now more than ever to enfranchise as many Filipinos as possible. We cannot let this pandemic endanger elderly voters’ lives, let alone discourage them from voting," she said.
"Magsisilbing tungkod ang panukalang ito kina lolo at lola na mag-aakay sa kanila patungo sa malinis at kumportableng halalan," she added.
The next Philippine general elections is set on May 9, 2022. — BM, GMA News