Laws for PWDs are not implemented well
THEY ARE PRODUCTIVE members of society, but are often overlooked and forced to take the back seat because they are different, and deemed incapable of performing tasks which a seemingly “normal” person can do. But little do we know that persons with disabilities (PWDs) are sometimes even more reliable, more dedicated and more productive than probably most people today.
Michael Masiglat grew up pretty much normal. He played basketball, street games, and even joined the scouts. He basically ran and walked like any other kid, despite of the polio on his right leg.
“The name calling or ‘panunukso’ was there. Even non-PWDs experienced that for sure. In my case though, it’s just more painful because it’s a fact,” he shared.
Discrimination is also not alien to him especially in school when he was asked to sign up for the P.E. class intended for PWDs, even if he knew he can perform the tasks in the class. At the time he could still run, jump, leap but was turned away by the professor of the university. He was informed that there was a special class for people like him.
“I explained to the personnel that I can run and swim, and that maybe I can join basketball or swimming instead. They said no and that it has to be ‘that’ P.E. class only,” he recalled.
That “P.E. class” designated for PWDs consisted of sitting at the grand stand for an hour and a half, doing nothing but board games. Worse, they were forced to buy UAAP tickets as quiz or short exams, and at the end of the semester, were asked to buy a “gift” for the instructor in order to pass the course.
Decades later, Masiglat’s leg has grown weaker, and he can’t run like he used to, but this has not deterred him from proving that PWDs are more than what they lack in physical form. He is now a licensed lifeguard overseas.
Which leads to the Association of Empowered PWD Philippines Inc. (AEPPI), an NGO formed by PWDs that aims to spread awareness and advocate their human rights.
“There are so many laws created for PWDs in our country and almost all of them have our welfare in mund. Sad to say, what is lacking is the proper implementation of the laws,” said Myrha Musico of AEPPI.
She adds that it is time for the government to focus on them so that they will not be considered a liability in the community, but rather a productive citizen of the country.
“Companies, or private establishments should not look at our limitations but judge us based on our skills and talents. If we are given an opportunity to be employed, I’m sure that we will give more than what we are expected. Opportunity comes rarely so we will not waste it,” added Musico.
She believes that for a program to have meaning and to succeed, there should be awareness first among people regarding what rights and privileges the PWDs have. The Philippines is actually one of the first countries in Asia that has established laws for the PWD, however, we are still left behind in terms of enforcement due to lack of awareness and insensitivity among the general population.
The key is to be aware and to be considerate. With organizations like the AEPPI pushing for the advocacy, people can start by becoming aware and sensitive to PWDs. Meanwhile, businesses can start employing PWDs, to consider them as asset and not as liability.
“We can begin by not abusing even the simplest provisions meant for them, like parking spaces and toilets especially reserved for PWDs. Those spaces in public establishments with a wheelchair marked on them are there for a reason, and even if you are the richest person in the country, your need for that allocated space should not go above the need of a PWDs,” they concluded.
For reference, there are three Republic Acts dedicated for PWDs – R.A. 7277 or the Magna Carta for PWD, R.A. 9442 or the Batas Pambansa Blng. 344 known as the Accessibility Law, and the currently signed expanded act of President Rodrigo Duterte, IRR of R.A. 10754, which is an act expanding the benefits and privileges of PWDs.
Under these laws, PWDs should enjoy 20 percent discount and Value Added Tax (VAT) Exemption on the purchase of certain goods and services from all establishments for their exclusive use. However, it must be noted that the purchase of such goods and services from sellers that are not subject to VAT shall be subject to the applicable percentage tax. This means that subsequent purchases by persons with disability on the same day from the same establishment will still be subjected to the 20 percent discount and VAT-exemption benefits (IRR of RA 10754, Rule IV, Section 6).
PWDs should also be granted the same discount and VAT exemption from restaurants, recreation centers (theaters, cinema houses, concert halls, circuses, carnivals and other places of culture and leisure), purchase of medicine and food for special medical purposes, medical and dental services, diagnostic, laboratory and professional fees of attending doctors, domestic air and sea travel, land transportation travel, and funeral and burial services for the death of a person with disability.
In order to enjoy these privileges, PWDs are issued an identification card as proof of entitlement by the Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) or the City/ Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (C/MSWDO) of the place where the PWD resides.
Under R.A. 10754, the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) is tasked to monitor the implementation of the rules and regulations to ensure that the persons with disability enjoy the additional benefits and privileges provided by the law. NCDA should develop a monitoring scheme to secure relevant and up-to-date information on the progress of its enforcement. This will cover the consolidation of reports from the PDAO and other government agencies on matters pertaining to their duty and responsibility with regards to establishing the necessary information regarding PWDs including their availment of tax incentives.