“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”
By Alex P. Vidal
WE hope that before the Philippine Congress adjourns sine die on Friday, June 7, Ilonggo Senator Franklin Drilon will help expedite the passage of the senate version of the House Bill 9106 that seeks to grant additional privileges to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and will amend provisions of the Magna Carta for PWDs (Republic Act 7277), such as mandatory employment in government offices and corporations, including the private sector.
There are senators, aside from Drilon, who can help prioritize the passage of the bill within three to four days now, but the senior lawmaker from Molo district may hold the golden key since he is more closer to the heart of the bill’s chief sponsor.
The bill, authored by Iloilo City Representative and Mayor-elect Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas, was recently approved in the third the final reading in the Lower House (House of Representatives).
If the counterpart bill in the Upper House (Senate) is approved before June 7, it becomes a law once President Rodrigo Duterte has signed it.
“The House has already approved this new PWD bill and it’s now up to the Senate to do the same. I’m not losing hope that we can still pass this into law,” Treñas recently said.
Republic Act 7277, or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, defined PWDs as “those suffering from restriction of different abilities, as a result of a mental, physical or sensory impairment, to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.”
All government agencies, offices or government corporations are mandated to fill at least two percent of all positions for qualified PWDs, under the measure.
Under Treñas bill, private corporations with more than 1,000 employees will be required to allot at least two percent of all positions for PWDS and one percent for those with less than 1,000 employees.
Private firms that employ PWDs who meet the required skills or qualifications as apprentices or learners in return “shall be entitled to an additional deduction, from their gross income, equivalent to 25 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.”
On the other hand, “private entities that employ PWDs as regular employees shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income, equivalent to 50 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages for the PWDs.”
Treñas’ measure also mandates the provision of free assistive technology services including designing, customizing, maintaining, repairing or replacing assistive technology devices to enhance the functional capacity of PWDs.
Also provided on the proposed law as additional privileges for PWDs are as follows:
Monthly stipend amounting to P500 for marginalized PWDs to augment their daily subsistence, medical and other needs.
Exemption from passport processing fees, as well as travel taxes, terminal fees, other fees and charges levied on airports, ports, or other terminals by the government, any of its agencies or instrumentalities, or by government-owned or controlled corporations.
There is also the lifetime validity of PWD identification cards.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is also mandated to monitor compliance on the provisions of the proposed law and ensure the privileges provided are not abused by its beneficiaries.
Based on the 2010 Census, there are 1,443,000 PWDs comprising 1.57% of the total population, in the country. In the 2013 elections, there were around 365,000 registered PWD voters.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)