Comelec sets aside voting areas for Mangyan voters in Mindoro

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Elections will be setting aside 21 separate polling places and 8 accessible voting centers for Mangyan voters in 21 municipalities in Occidental and Oriental Mindoro for the May 9 elections.

This was announced by Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia Thursday morning as the poll body reconvened the Inter-agency Network on Empowering Indigenous People in the Electoral Process, attended by several groups and leaders of Mangyan communities.

Accessible voting centers (AVCs) refer to newly established voting centers located nearer to the communities while separate polling places (SPPs) are special voting areas inside regular polling precincts where IPs can vote.

Guia said the project aims to address issues on the accessibility of polling areas, and on discrimination and threats commonly experienced by IP voters during election day.

This will also prevent the practice of "hakot" or hamletting of indigenous voters by local politicians to either harass or intimidate them into voting.

The poll body revealed that IP voters experience much difficulty in every elections. Some IP voters have to walk 5 to 12 hours to go to polling centers, making them vulnerable to threats and intimidation by local politicians.

But because of limited time, the poll body could only implement the project in Mangyan communities in Mindoro, benefiting almost 3,000 voters.

The Comelec said voting in AVCs and SPPs will be conducted without the VCMs, so the ballots would have to be transported to clustered precincts where the ballots will be cast by the Board of Election Inspectors to the machine.

Because of this, voting time will be shorter in these places, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in SPPs and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in AVCs.

The Comelec is looking to expand the coverage of SPPs and AVCs in other areas of the country where there are significant population of IP voters for the next elections.

This is on top of continuing voter education to all IP communities all over the country to educate and encourage them to participate in the polls.

Guia added that according to general instructions, IP voters all over the country will be afforded special treatment much like persons with disability (PWDs) or senior voters.

There are currently almost 100,000 registered IP voters for the 2016 elections.