Anticipating the forthcoming 2013 Philippine midterm elections, a group of organizations working with persons with disabilities (PWDs) is launching a nationwide campaign that aims to increase the participation of PWDs in the elections and other democratic processes.
Aptly called Fully Abled Nation, the campaign seeks to arrest the decline of PWD participation in previous polls. A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that the number of PWDs who actually voted has gone done from 60 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in the 2010 elections.
Commission on Election (COMELEC) Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, said, “ there should be efforts to have accessible polling stations, ballots printed in Braille, sign language interpreters, a party-list representative for PWDs, and a PWD commissioner in the COMELEC for PWDs to be able to exercise their right of suffrage.”
He added, “there is also a need to campaign among lawmakers to push the rights of the PWDs as voters, to nurture contacts with international agencies concerned with PWDs, establish regional networks, to have an ASEAN committee on PWDs, and for the agencies and groups to exchange best practices, said Sarmiento, who is COMELEC’s “focal person” in the Inter-Agency and NGO Network in Empowering PWDs.”
Spearheaded by The Asia Foundation with the support of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Fully Abled Nation is part of a three-year Disability-Inclusive Elections Program which seeks to heighten voter awareness among PWDs, promote institutional partnerships to enhance support for their participatory needs, and strengthen the capabilities of disability peoples’ organizations (DPOs) and NGOs supporting PWD advocacies.
Fully Abled Nation will be launched on April 18, 2012, from 1:00 pm to 4:15 pm, at the Makati Shangri-La in Makati City. It will be hosted by the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Hon. Bill Twedell and The Asia Foundation Acting Country Representative Ky Johnson.
Guest speakers will be Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. of COMELEC.
Expected to attend the launch are PWD champions from DPOs, NGOs, the academe, development work sector, international donor organizations, and key government agencies who will be signing the Declaration of Commitment to uphold the common struggle for PWD rights.
Various projects under the Fully Abled Nation campaign include an assessment of the situation of PWDs, focus group discussions and dedicated surveys nationwide, piloting electoral reform in Bohol, development and application of disability-inclusive volunteer management systems in Cebu, among others.
Last March 28, 2012, various sectors in Cebu City signed the Declaration of Commitment in support of the Fully Abled Nation. It was held at the Cebu Provincial Capitol. In attendance were some members of the Cebu provincial board, NGOs, and PWD champions from the academe and business sector.