Have you forgotten about us?

This is a repost from the Philippine Daily Inquirer written by Roberto S. Salva. He is the executive director of the Catholic Ministry to Deaf People Inc. Contact him at babisalva@gmail.com. You may view the entire article here.

A reminder
By Roberto S. Salva

LAST MONTH, in a forum on human rights organized by the Australian Embassy and the Commission on Human Rights, one of the deaf invitees posed this question to panel presenters: “Have you forgotten about us?”

By “us” the deaf meant Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

The forum moderator shot the question down. She suggested that further questions should be confined to the topic of that particular panel discussion. The topic, the last of two, was on the challenges of prosecuting human rights cases. There were only eight minutes provided for this topic’s open forum. The earlier panel topic was on press freedom and the killing of journalists.

The deaf person who asked the question may have wondered why she was there at all since neither disability nor minority rights were part of the agenda. Among the presenters, only Catherine Branson, president of Australia’s Human Rights Commission, mentioned disability rights. She gave it equal importance with the human rights issues that were in discussion.

There is no doubt that the deaf person shared the nation’s concern over the relentless culture of impunity in the country. Disability, though, has never been a disturbing issue in the country. There are PWDs among us but we have for the meantime managed to put their concerns on hold and rendered their citizenship token attention. They are only a small group—merely 10 percent of our country’s population—of politically unorganized people. And we do not have the resources yet.

But the concerns of PWDs, some of which they brought to the forum, need to be genuine concerns of the country’s majority. The lack of resources does not diminish the rights of around 9 million Filipinos.

Indeed, development and human rights go hand in hand. Now, the lack of development is our excuse for our disregard of the rights of some groups like the PWDs. But, it is precisely this disregard of those rights that perpetuates our state of underdevelopment and further escalates poverty in the country.

We cannot expect, for example, that the almost 4 million children with disabilities not in school would eventually contribute positively to our nation’s growth. According to the Special Education Division of the Department of Education, barely 80,000 children with disabilities were enrolled during the school year 2004-2005. This is only 2 percent of the estimated total number of children with disabilities.

PWDs find it harder to share in the task of nation-building because the nation is still shut down to them. Government institutions, even hospitals, are still not accessible to wheelchair users. Television programs—even news programs—are still not accessible to the deaf.

The Commission on Elections during the recent elections denied the Filipino PWDs’ desire to be represented in Congress. They supposedly do not have a nationwide presence. The party-list law was created for groups like the PWDs. Ironically, before the enactment of the party-list law, PWDs as a sector were represented in Congress.

PWDs do not only find it hard to participate in the nation’s life, they are also not safe. Our police stations still cannot handle deaf persons who want to report a crime. Early this year, a 17-year-old deaf girl was abducted and raped by 10 men. She could not report directly to the police. She also could not file the case directly in court as the language of the court is not her language. True, these institutions can be approached, but not without considerable expense.

There are more PWD human rights concerns. That is why the United Nations came up with a special instrument in the form of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Philippines is a signatory to this. It has obligations. It should be obliged to keep these.

Disabled ask Aquino gov’t to recognize rights – Inquirer.net

Note: This is a repost from the Philippine Daily Inquirer Online Edition.

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Disabled ask Aquino gov’t to recognize rights
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 20:11:00 07/15/2010

MANILA, Philippines – Their physical handicap it appears, is not the biggest battle confronting persons with disabilities (PWDs). It is the government’s inability to implement the laws that protect their rights that is their biggest challenge.

Bonding together, the PWDs have asked the Aquino administration to recognize their rights under the law, especially the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities that gives them 20 percent discount for medicine purchase.

Abner Manlapaz of the National Council on Disability Affairs said a number of drugstores, including giant drug retailer Mercury Drug and the Drug Store Association of the Philippines (DSAP), refuse to follow the law.

For this, Manlapaz said his group was considering filing a class suit against these drug stores.

“We are gathering materials and preparing for a possible class suit,” he said in a news conference in Quezon City, organized in connection with the 32nd National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week.

The partylist group Akbayan also said it would file a resolution soon to look into the practices of Mercury Drug and other drug store that refuse to give the mandated 20 percent discount.

“It’s not a joke to spend for medicine for one’s maintenance, that’s why we were so disappointed that we are being deprived of this privilege,” said Lauro Purcil Jr., board of governor of the Katipunan ng Maykapansanan sa Pilipinas Inc.
Medicines are vital to the day-to-day existence of PWD, including children with AD/HD, autism, seizure disorder and other intellectual disabilities. Cancer survivors are also heavily dependent on medicines, Manlapaz said.
But Mercury Drug and the DSAP refuse to give the discount.

Manlapaz said PWD was also facing difficulty moving around Metro Manila because of unfriendly structures such as footbridges.
He said footbridges built around the city did not have access for people on wheelchair and elders.

Only 30 percent of the country’s churches have wheelchair access, he added.

Running priest Robert Reyes has vowed to join in the cause of the PWD. He said he planned to jog from the National Housing Authority near the Quezon Memorial Circle to the office of the Commission on Human Rights along Commonwealth Avenue pushing a person on wheelchair to raise the problems of the PWD before the human rights body.