Friday, December 25, 2009

Philippines Senate approves legislation to give people with disabilities rights

From ABS-CBN News:

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Pia S. Cayetano has welcomed the passage by the Senate of a proposed measure that seeks to give a voice in local governance to the country’s estimated 9.7 million persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Senate Bill No.3560, otherwise known as “An Act establishing the institutional mechanism to ensure the implementation of programs and services for persons with disabilities in every province, city and municipality,” was approved unanimously on second reading by the Senate on December 16 before going on a four-week recess.

Cayetano, the bill’s principal sponsor, said Senate Bill No.3560 mandates the creation of a “Persons with Disability Affairs Office” (PDAO) in every province, city and municipality.

In the case of fourth, fifth and sixth class municipalities, the bill calls on LGUs to designate a “focal person” who shall be responsible for coordinating and ensuring the delivery of programs and services for PWDs. Priority in appointment should be given to a PWD with experience in providing services to his or her fellow PWDs.

The measure also renames the term, “disabled persons” into “persons with disabilities” - the internationally accepted and recognized term for people who are either: 1) hearing impaired; 2) orthopedically impaired; 3) visually impaired; and 4) mentally challenged.

Cayetano said several Filipinos with disabilities have proven they can stand out despite their physical limitations. “Disabilities should never be a hindrance to excel in one’s chosen field. By being assets in society, many PWDs are breaking barriers and changing the misimpression that they are a burden to the nation.”

In her sponsorship speech, Cayetano cited several outstanding PWDs, and more can follow with enough support at the local government level:

● Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, whose polio did not prevent her from serving her province mates, a 2008 Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service;

● Roselle Ambubuyog, visually impaired student from Ateneo who graduated Summa Cum Laude and now heads a number of foundations for the blind while acting as consultant for a US firm that develops new products for the blind;

● Ana Kristina Arce, 23-year-old hearing impaired student who is the first to graduate magna cum laude from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde;

● Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, visually impaired Filipino-American lawyer who is presently the Vice-Chairman of United States Pres. Barack Obama’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities; and

● Adeline “Ads” Dumapong-Ancheta, the first Filipina Paralympics medalist who won the bronze medal in powerlifting in the 2000 Paralympics, and has recently gone to swimming despite having no legs below the knee and no right hand..

“Passing Senate Bill 3560 is a step towards the right path. Establishing these institutional mechanisms would ensure that the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons will now be implemented and thus helping our brothers and sisters living with disabilities in their rehabilitation, self-development, and self-reliance and for their eventual integration into the mainstream of society,” Cayetano stressed.

Other coauthors of the measure are Senators Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Miriam Defesor-Santiago, Edgardo Angara, Manny Villar, Antonio Trillanes IV, Mar Roxas, Bong Revilla and Alan Peter Cayetano.