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House OKs early voting for seniors, PWDs, lawyers, health staff

The House of Representatives on Monday approved on the third and final reading a bill allowing qualified senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), lawyers and health workers to vote early in local and national elections. House Bill No. 7576, which was a consolidation of 15 separate measures filed in the current 19th Congress, grants senior citizens, PWDs, lawyers and human resources for health to cast their ballots at accessible establishments designated by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) within seven working days before the date set for local and national elections. Human resources for health is defined 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.” “In consideration of their respective physical and health conditions, senior citizens and PWDs shall be allowed to vote early in national and local elections,” read Section 2 of the measure. “Similarly, in consideration of the necessity of providing professional services and ensuring the health and safety of the populace during election day, lawyers and human resources for health, respectively, shall be allowed to vote early in national and local elections,” it added. HB 7576 mandates the conduct of 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 under this Act shall vote with the rest of the eligible population on election day. Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez hailed the progress of the measure which, if enacted, would benefit disadvantaged sectors as well as those that render indispensable services to Filipinos. “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,” Romualdez said. “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 added Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said HB 7576 sends a message that no citizen should be denied of his right to vote on account of his work, age or physical traits. ‘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. And to seniors, handicaps brought by age, if any, should not be a hurdle to voting,’ the Batangas 6th District Representative said in explaining his vote. He added that the bill also ensures that medical personnel would not be denied the opportunity to vote by their fidelity to their job. ‘To these sectors, this bill seeks to create ease in their voting by instituting early voting for them,’ Recto said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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