After 20 long years, the persons with disabilities (PWD) in the Philippines can now have a chance to be represented in the Congress when the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) approved the partylist, Pilipinos with Disabilities Inc. (PWD Inc.)
Their participation paves way for them to carry on their shoulders the most marginalized and underrepresented sector in the society and brings the mission for PWDs to have a voice 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 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.
With President Benigno Aquino’s platform of “Tuwid na daan”, the COMELEC this year approved the participation of PWD Inc. with COMELEC Chairman, Sixto Brillantes, saying “They are represented by Filipinos, all of them are disabled. Right now we don’t have a representation of the disabled.”
“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.
“Bahagi nga po ng itinataguyod nating demokrasya ay ang kakayahang makiambag sa bawat aspektong nagpapaarangkada sa kalakhang lipunan—kabilang na ang edukasyon, hanapbuhay, at maging ang pakikilahok sa ating mga demokratikong proseso. Kaya naman, tagumpay din po nating maituturing ngayong mayroon nang isang party-list na accredited ng COMELEC ang kayang isatinig ang karapatan at kapakanan ng PWD sector,” says President Aquino.
Despite getting a favorable seeding in the ballot at number 10, the PWD Inc. still needs all the support from 10M PWDs in the Philippines.
“Our only hope to win the election is through mass media and social networksas we don’t have enough funds to support our cause. We are the real marginalized sector that needs representation in Congress,” Barredo said.
“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.
Why I will vote for PWD partylist?
It’s a simple answer. PWDs are the most marginalized sector in our society. They are most often neglected by the society, often facing discrimination and their rights being not respected. They have limited access to the basic needs of human such as education, employment, participation in political rights, etc.
And according to the United Nations, PWDs in the poorest communities suffer most from poverty.
Like any other person in the society, persons with disabilities are also human so they also need to be respected, based on an inherent dignity of man as what Pope John Paul II taught that “persons with disabilities are fully human subjects, with rights and duties: in spite of limitations and sufferings affecting their bodies and faculties, they point up more clearly the dignity and greatness of man”.
In his Encyclical on Christian Hope, Pope Benedict observed that “the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer … A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through ‘com-passion’ is a cruel and inhuman society” (Spe Salvi, 38). He mentioned that PWDs awakens our hearts.
The principle of Catholic social teachings on the respect for of the human person states that “Being in the image of God, the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give.”
In his inauguration speech, Pope Francis spoke of the poor and the need for the Church to deal with poverty. PWDs are included in traditional categories in need of papal beneficence. “Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment,” he said.
“Any person, even with physical or mental limitations, even if severe, have an invaluable worth, and that is how they should be treated. I ask all Church communities to be attentive and receive these brothers and sisters. I urge lawmakers and leaders to mentor people with disabilities and promote their active participation in society,” Pope Benedict XVI said.
In her article, “A vote for PWD”, Rina Jimenez-David wrote that “A vote for PWD, then, is a vote for giving meaning to the intents and principles of the party-list system, breathing life to the moral imperative that those ‘who have less in life should have more in law.’” She is right. PWDs have less in life and thus, they need to have a voice in the Congress.
In this connection, we call upon you, your family, friends, and networks to support and vote for PWD Inc. so that our nominees are elected to the House of Representatives. We believe that the persons with disabilities sector of our society are the most deserving in acquiring representation under the party list system.
Vote for the true marginalized sector! Vote for awareness and advocacy of persons with disabilities! Vote for NUMBER 10 in the ballot – PWD PARTYLIST! There are more than 10 million Filipinos with disabilities who depend on you.