BLIND SPOT: Change through the disadvantaged


I knew December 3 was a special day. I was thinking; I must be forgetting some friend’s birthday. I checked my Facebook notifications and there was nothing. Oh how could I have forgotten? December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disability. Against this backdrop, Sen. Bam Aquino filed Senate Bill No. 356 and 1249, and Sen. Leila de Lima filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1622, all directed towards the benefit of Filipinos with disability. “Under Senate Bill 1249 filed by Sen. Aquino, Government agencies and private offices must allot two and one percent of their workforce, respectively, to PWDs.” According to Aquino, “This bill seeks to create more job opportunities for PWDs in the workforce and provide commensurate compensation, benefits and employment terms for PWDs as any other qualified employee,” “Senate Bill No. 356, also filed by Aquino, aims to provide mandatory Philhealth coverage for PWDs, to ensure that their health is protected.” These “two measures aim to amend Republic Act 7277 or the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability” to accommodate the latest benefits and privileges for PWDs.” (www.bamaquino.com) On the other hand, De lima’s bill seeks to give guaranteed parking spaces for PWDs in public places, set the guidelines on who can utilize such exclusive areas, and penalize those who obstruct their accessibility routes. “Without clear penalties for the unauthorized use and obstruction of such designated spaces, social media is abound with posts of drivers who brazenly and wantonly disregard disabled parking spaces,” “The theme for 2017 International Day of People with Disability is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”. The overarching principle of this theme is to ‘leave no one behind’ and empowers people with disability to be active contributors of society.” (www.idpwd.com) Let’s see. “A sustainable and resilient society for all Filipinos including those with disability”, does this mean that persons with disability are included in the development programs in Filipino society? A people’s organization leader of national level asked a public school teacher to children with special needs, of the last time when the state provided for reading materials appropriate for the said type of learners. The teacher responded that the last of that sort was a donation of boxes of books from a private individual. The community leader clarified his concern that what he wanted to know was those provided from the government. The other person responded that there has been none. The leader asked another question on the last time the national government supplied the said children with assistive devices. The person on the other end of the conversation responded that the device in current usage was accessed from the local government. A person with disability takes the recently concluded bar examinations. The examinee requests for accommodations as appropriate to the given condition. This bar examinee is required by the examination authorities to settle an amount of thousand for the reasonable adjustment. The same examinee requests for permission to utilize a device to scaffold the sensory impairment. The examinee was told that the concern has to go through the Supreme Court to be given consent. (Are we appealing a conviction of the appellate court here?) Yes, we really need transformation towards sustainable and resilient society which includes persons with disability. There are commendable developments in in secondary and tertiary education for persons with disability, and locally opened opportunities for employment and enterprise, and structural accessibility features; lest I be accused of heavier on the complaining than on the commending. However, the international day’s theme is overarched by the principle of leaving no one behind; and this event calls our attention to parts left behind, or examine the other parts which may be left behind. The proposed legislation are welcomed with appreciation. However, there seem to be similar policies already inscribed in the Magna Carta and other regulations, which would make the bills redundant. Incentives on employing persons with disability have long been overlooked. Furthermore, discreet denial of applicants with disability have similarly been long seen with blind eyes and fallen on deaf ears. Health benefits have long already been distributed to especially indigent persons with disability. I guess, as in other policies, as a the cliché goes, they are not just being fully implemented. Penalties for persons who use spaces not intended for them? So, this is the beginning of a new brand of squatters. Call me cynical; but are we not setting ourselves up for rules which are , difficult to implement or not implemented at all. Moreover, Filipinos have an amazing ability to circumvent rules; going around them ever so skillfully. Then after some time when these modes of operation are exposed, a new legislation would be drafted which would once again circumvented all over again. Anyway, whatever the case may be, weeds may pull down stems, rock may block sprouts, social justice for the challenged is the direction of transformation of the nation... …and not the efforts of focusing on ills of political opponents“not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” Philippians 2:4