20 July 2012, Tagbilaran City – Upholding Life And Nature (ULAN), a non-stock, non-profit legal NGO specializing in environmental human rights, is currently working on a project aimed at making the upcoming 2013 elections more disability-inclusive. The project hopes to improve the participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the election process by instituting reforms that will effectively diminish, if not eliminate, physical and social barriers to the exercise of their right to suffrage.
As a culminating event, ULAN reported the consolidated outcome of the series of PWD workshop-consultations held in select municipalities in Bohol to all the participating LGUs, the Provincial Government of Bohol, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) during a summit held 19 July 2012 in Tagbilaran City.
In general, the consultations revealed that the PWD sector wanted to be provided with separate and accessible polling places, transportation to and from their precincts, and assistors who could attend to their differing needs. Moreover, the PWDs expressed frustration over the lack of attention from politicians during the campaign period.
The event fine-tuned the electoral reforms identified by the PWDs in the workshop-consultations and solicited concrete responses from the pertinent government agencies—both national and local. Significantly, it is the goal of the project that the LGU-led efforts will generate lessons which can serve as invaluable templates for possible replication by other cities and municipalities in the country towards a more disability-inclusive electoral process.
Before drawing to a close, the event awarded plaques of appreciation to the Municipalities of Antequera, Mabini, and Ubay, the City of Tagbiliran, the Province of Bohol, and as well as to Bohol 3rd District Board Member Godofreda O. Tirol, as PWD Champions. More importantly, one of the highlights of the event was the ensuing commitment signing by those in attendance, pledging to ensure that persons with disabilities fully enjoy basic human rights and effectively participate in society as equals by advocating and taking concrete steps toward more disability-inclusive elections.
Incidentally, this undertaking is made possible under the Disability-Inclusive Elections Program of The Asia Foundation (TAF) through the support of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).