WITH the cancellation of “mall voting” on May 9, senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez urged yesterday the Commission on Elections to guarantee sufficient Accessible Polling Places (APPs) as “malasakit” (compassion) to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens, and priority lanes for pregnant women during the May 9 presidential polls.
Romualdez said specialized voting place under Republic Act (RA) No. 10366, otherwise known as “An Act Authorizing the Comelec to Establish Precincts Assigned to Accessible Polling Places Exclusively for Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizens” must be fully implemented.
“This is our way of showing malasakit to elderly and PWDs and we should ensure a hassle-free voting place that is exclusive for them,” said Romualdez who lamented the announcement of Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista that the poll body’s en banc voted 4-3 reversing its 6-1 ruling last March 10 that allowed mall voting.
“At the same time, we call on the Comelec to put a priority lane for pregnant women as a matter of malasakit to their condition,” said Romualdez.
Romualdez was credited for the successful passage into law of his measure exempting more than 1.5 million PWDs from the payment of 12-percent value added tax (VAT) on certain goods and services.
The Comelec cited legal concern under Omnibus Election Code which provides that the transfer of a polling precinct should be approved 45 days before the elections.
The mall voting has a total of 231,174 electorate who will cast their votes in designated 80 malls from 10 companies for the May 9 elections.
Based on a minute resolution dated Dec. 23, 2015, the Comelec approved the recommendation to create a consolidated project of precincts with Accessible Polling Places instead of creating the specialized precincts.
Under this, senior citizens and PWDs will “accomplish the ballots in the polling place together with the other voters assigned to the cluster.”
However, the Comelec gave assurances that a separate area in the polling place shall be assigned for the exclusive use of the elderly and PWDs in accomplishing their ballots.
Assistive devices and experts’ services will also be given to the PWDs who need some help.
Under the law, the Comelec is authorized to create at least one APP exclusive for senior citizens and PWDs in a voting center.
Under Republic Act (RA) No. 10754, it exempts PWDs from VAT payment on certain goods and services that President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III signed last March 23, 2016 where Romualdez was the principal sponsor.
Romualdez’s PWD “malasakit” law provides VAT exemption coverage on the following: medical and dental services; purchase of medicines in all drugstores; public railways, skyways and bus fare; admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses, concert halls, circuses, carnivals and other places of culture, leisure and amusement; and all services in hotels and similar lodging establishments, restaurants, and recreation centers.
The PWD law would also allow the relatives, up to the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, taking care of handicapped to claim a tax deduction of P25,000 in their income tax.
The law added funeral services and burial expenses to the list of assistance to be given to PWDs.
Romualdez, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), finished his undergraduate studies with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Government from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1985 and obtained in 1988 a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from the Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Presidential frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte adopted Romualdez, head of the House Independent Bloc and a three-term congressman who is running for the Senate under a platform anchored on compassionate governance, as one of his guest senatorial candidates for sharing similar platforms of government in ensuring peace and order, curbing graft and corruption, giving free colleges education, improving health services, institutionalizing and expanding the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), and among others.
Romualdez ran unopposed in the last polls and a former chairman of the House committee on ethics and privileges.
Romualdez’s, who has been endorsed by former President-turned reelectionist Manila City Mayor Erap Estrada, key platforms are focused on improving jobs, health, education, agriculture and disaster preparedness.
Romualdez is also a shared senatorial candidates of Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and has been endorsed by the 40-man Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCF) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) or the country’s second largest political party.
Romualdez was virtually endorsed by presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe because of his “malasakit” advocacies had he not came late and endorsed by other presidential candidates.