IT CANNOT be denied that persons with disabilities or PWDs have not been fully mainstreamed in the society and have experienced limited support in terms of health services, employment, and education opportunities. To address these needs, Republic Act (RA) 10070, an act establishing an institutional mechanism to ensure the implementation of programs and services for persons with disabilities in every province, city and municipality, amending RA 7277, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta for Disabled Persons,” as amended, and for other purpose, was passed by the 14th Congress of the Philippines on April 6, 2010.
The said law mandates the creation of the Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) in every province, city and municipality. Among the primary tasks of the PDAO include the formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs for the promotion of the welfare of the PWDs in coordination with concerned national and local government agencies; the implementation of the provisions of RA 10070, Batas Pambansa Blg. 344, otherwise known as the Accessibility Law, and other relevant laws at the local level; and ensuring that policies, plans and programs for the promotion of the welfare of PWDs are funded by both the national and local government.
However, based on the investigative project entitled “Assessment of local mechanisms for programs and services for persons with disabilities (PWDs) – Focus on PDAO” undertaken in January to May 2018 by the UP Public Administration Research and Extension Foundation (UPPAF), supported by the Coalitions for Change program of the Australian Embassy and The Asia Foundation (TAF), it states that only “six of every 10 local government units had PDAOs.”
The report also stated that there was a “low awareness among local legislators on the requirements of RA 10070” and “more than half of the provinces (58%) and higher income municipalities (63%) are non-compliant with RA 10070.” The cases of non-compliance found in the seven LGUs include the “assignment of PWD focal persons with other concurrent positions in the LGU, placement of the PWD unit under the social welfare office, or the non-observance of the general assembly process that was stipulated in the IRR.”
The third week of July, under Proclamation No. 361 issued on August 19, 2000, is declared as the “National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week” to raise awareness on the problems on disability, and encourage every citizen to take active responsibility in addressing these issues.
Aptly, this year’s theme “Lokal na Pamahalaan: Kabalikat sa Pagtupad ng Karapatan ng mga Taong May Kapansanan” calls on all local government units to strengthen their compliance to RA 10070 to cater to the increasing needs of PWDs in their respective localities.
Under RA 10079, the head of the PDAO must be a qualified PWD chosen from three nominees selected during a general assembly. This ensures that the person who will take charge of the PDAO is someone who can relate to all the PWDs in the community. He or she understands the plight, the needs, and even aspirations of a PWD.
LGUs must also exert efforts in raising the awareness of the general public about the different forms of disability for them to be able to understand and eventually accept the PWDs they meet and encounter. It is important that the stigma and discrimination against PWDS be decreased, if not totally removed. This simple way of making them feel that they are included in the agenda of the LGU is already something that the PWD community can take a strong hold on.
It is also desired that the awareness and continuing efforts to mainstream the PWD in the society does not only begin and stop during the NDPR week. LGUs must always strive to strengthen, advocate, and sustain efforts to foster an inclusive and nurturing community to all its constituents.