Finally, after 20 long years, the persons with disabilities (PWD) in the Philippines can now have a chance to be represented in the Congress.
The Pilipinos with Disabilities, Inc. (PWD Inc.) was approved by Commission on Elections (COMELEC) last year, paving the way for them to carry on their shoulders to represent the most marginalized sector in the country in the Congress.
“For more than a decade already, the sector has not been represented in the Legislative branch. The ability of the sector to contribute in all matters that would redound to the benefit of the society as a whole has been proven. We have a lot of concerns that require legislative interventions. We firmly believed that it would be more meaningful and realistic if the sector is represented in the Philippine Congress for we further believed that the best policies for PWD’s are those that emanates and authored by the sector themselves,” says Teddy M. Kahil, the National President of Philippine Blind Union Inc.
PWD Inc. representatives are visually-impaired Michael Barredo, orthopedically-impaired Manuel Agcaoili, Adeline Ancheta, Luis Arrelano, and Octavio Gonzales.
This will be the first time that a partylist for PWDs will run in the election. In 2010, COMELEC barred the now-defunct, Disabled Pinoy Party. This decision became controversial and raised eyebrows on how COMELEC before choose the real partylists.
It was very controversial because the COMELEC approved several partylists whose nominees are not related to the marginalized sectors that the law provided and most of the partylists they approved are high profile people who have links to former President, Gloria Arroyo.
After screening all partylists last year, COMELEC this time choose the real representatives of the partylist system and removed those who are not marginalized as according to the law.
“They are represented by Filipinos, all of them are disabled. Right now we don’t have a representation of the disabled,” says COMELEC Chairman, Sixto Brillantes.
“’Yung nominees nila, talaga namang disabled. Pangalawa, may track record sila of working with and for persons with disabilities,” added Commissioner, Rene Sarmiento, who also heads the special voters’ registration for PWDs.
During the raffle held by COMELEC to determine the seeding of all partylists in the ballot, PWD Inc. was picked for the slot of number 10. This means a bigger chance of getting “at large voters” or voters who have not decided which partylist to vote.
But, the seeding is not only a factor that will determine the chances of being elected. The PWD Inc. needs all the support from 10M PWDs in the Philippines.
“The journey of the sector to acquire seats at the Philippine Congress can be realized through unity setting aside personal interests and intellectual competition. Let’s all be united and help the sector achieve our dreams,” Mr. Kahil said.
“Let us all work for having a voice in Congress. This is the best opportunity to show that the PWD sector have matured already and desires a single front in engaging with the government. Let us all do away with our partisan “kami-kami, kampi-kampi” attitude and think more for the general welfare of the sector above our own parochial concerns. Let us be united!” says Emer Rojas, the president of New Vois Philippines.
Even non-PWDs and the supporters and advocates of PWDs are joining the call for unity. Ms. Lei Asuque-Talvo, a member of Philippine Association of Rehabilitation Medicine and a strong ally of the PWD sector, also believed that it’s time for PWDs to unite. “It’s time the PWD sector to unite, make your voices be heard and show your numbers. Tama na po ang pagtatalo kung sino ang dapat na na-accredit na party list, in the end ang sektor pa din naman ang nire-represent nito,” she says.
Another PWD leader, Jess Docot, expressed his support. “Let us always maintain unity in diversity. Setting aside principle and conviction will be tantamount to losing one’s dignity as a person. Let us then let father time present what is best for the sector,” he said.
The PWD Inc.’s vision is to remove barriers, systemic and attitudinal, that hinder PWD participation in community life. And its missions to empower the PWD sector by uplifting existing economic and social conditions for its betterment.
PWD Inc. shared their platform of government:
- To work for the full implementation of RA 10070 which calls for the establishment of Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) in every City and Municipality in the country — this will serve as the nerve center on matters that affect PWDs, ensure active participation in community life & governance, and facilitate their mainstreaming back to society.
- To push for the establishment of a national Registry for Persons With Disabilities (PWD) in the Philippines as provided for under RA 7277, IRR Rule IV, Sec. 3, Heading A, Sec. 1.1.3) with a reliable data base through which formulation of programs and activities that will benefit PWDs as well as those caring for them, will be facilitated.
- To effect a decent and viable program that would bring about opportunities for employment in order to free PWDs from bondage of poverty, neglect and despair. This could be achieved with the implementation of EO 417 which aims for economic independence by —
- Urging all government agencies, even LGUs to emulate compliance started by the DepEd to grant whenever possible organizations of PWDs the privilege to supply 10% of the agency’s annual requirements for manpower services as well as material items (e.g., tables, chairs, desks, etc.).
- Enjoin TESDA to set aside a budget specifically to provide PWDs with technical education and training in Information Communication and Technology (ICT) to equip them with skills needed to find good jobs.
- Providing help and technological advice to organizations of or to PWDs that wish to engage in livelihood activities.
- To assist PWD organizations secure financial support for its programs, projects and activities.
4. To convince the national government to provide a package of benefits and better social protection through enrollment with PhilHealth and membership with Social Security System and PAG-IBIG.
5. To pave the way and help DPOs link up with government and civil society so that urgent PWD concerns & issues are relayed to and brought to the attention of the public for appropriate action.
Their legislative agenda includes:
- To call for a review of all existing laws work for the full and that impact on PWDs such as RA 7277, RA 9442, RA 10070, BP 344, EO 417, etc. and work for amendments, if necessary, and subsequent effective implementation and enforcement.
- To call for amendments or changes in Philippine laws to harmonize with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
- To ascertain the need to enact new laws that would be responsive to the welfare of persons with disabilities.