MANILA — Voting 259-0, the House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 7576 or the act providing for early voting by qualified senior citizens, persons with disabilities, lawyers and human resources for health in national and local elections.
Submitted by the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, the bill seeks to enhance the access of qualified senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), lawyers, and human resources for health to the right to suffrage.
The bill grants senior citizens, PWDs, lawyers, and human resources for health the privilege to cast their ballot at accessible establishments designated by the Commission on Elections within seven working days before the date set for national and local elections.
It also mandates the conduct of a nationwide registration for senior citizens, PWDs, lawyers, and human resources for health to qualify them to avail of the early voting privilege.
Finally it provides that those who are not registered under this bill should it become law shall vote on Election Day.
"By default, senior citizens and PWDs encounter more difficulty in the electoral process. They deserve more assistance in the language of the law and HB No. 7576 provides them with this in the form of voting early and separate from the vast majority of Filipinos," Speaker Martin Romualdez said in a statement.
"On the other hand, our lawyers and human resource for health perform duties of great urgency and impact on other citizens. As such, the benefit of early voting for them is both deserved and called for," he explained.
HB No. 7576 emphasizes the policy of the State to make voting convenient for senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), lawyers, and human resources for health by giving them the option to vote earlier than the date set for the elections.
The bills defined “human resources for health” for purposes of availing the early voting benefit as those "who are engaged in health and health-related work, and all persons employed in all hospitals, sanitaria, health infirmaries, health centers, rural health units, barangay health stations, clinics and other health-related establishments owned and operated by the Government or its political subdivisions with original charters and shall include medical, allied health professional, administrative and support personnel employed regardless of their employment status who physically report to the frontlines during the day of the election".
The bill mandates a a nationwide registration for senior citizens, PWDs, lawyers, and human resources for health to qualify them to avail of this early voting privilege. Those who are not registered shall vote with the rest of the eligible population on Election Day.
"This bill ensures that fidelity to their job should not be punished with the denial of the opportunity to vote. And to the PWDs, the message is this: Disability should not be a cause of disenfranchisement. By making it easier for them to vote, this bill, in effect, provides access ramps to democracy. Election day or every day, let us not be deaf or blind to their plight. And to seniors, handicaps brought by age, if any, should not be a hurdle to voting. To these sectors, this bill seeks to create ease in their voting by instituting early voting for them. In fact, voters in this country are far too many to be accommodated in one day. Our system is simply overwhelmed by the number of voters. " Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said in his explanation as inserted into the records of the House.
The House will submit the bill to the Senate for action.