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Protecting the integrity of the PWD

In 2010, the population of persons with disabilities (PWD) in the Philippines has been determined to be at 1.7% This only goes to show how little attention we have paid to the PWD community. Not only is the statistic antiquated and false, the frequency of the update has also shown how little resource has been spent on even knowing how many PWDs are in the Philippines. Is it because we are not a strong base for voters? Our community does not even have a party list representing us in Congress, much less a champion in the Senate.

However, over the years the number of certified PWDs have risen and despite the laws in place, the PWDs remain to be marginalized and unprotected.

Formerly, it was the job of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)and its attached agency the National Council of Disability Affairs to issue the PWD ID. Then they had a PWD ID verifier through the assistance of the Department of Health (DOH), which it still available in the DOH website (https://pwd.doh.gov.ph/home.php)

Effective in 2017, the job of issuing the PWD ID to those who qualify has been given to the local government units. Each city and municipality has a PDAO or a persons with disabilities affairs office or the PDAO. The PDAO will determine if the applicant is qualified for a PWD ID. However, my personal experience with the PDAO, most especially when the applicant’s disability is not apparent, there exists some about kind of harassment if not discrimination. More so when availing the discounts from drugstores, malls and restaurants.

In June of 2020, there was much talk about HK Little Kitchen’s act of publishing the PWD IDs of the Chong Family because the restaurant felt that these IDs were fake. National Privacy Commission’s Atty Kiko Acero pointed out in social media that what the restaurant was a violation of the family’s privacy and that they could be liable for 1.2 Million in damages. A situation as this could have been easily prevented had there been no doubt about the veracity of their PWD ID. The doubt came from the fact that the family members were not present at the store when the family matriarch was buying and trying to get a discount using the IDs of her daughters. When she was refused the discount, the lady paid in full without incident, but the restaurant felt they were being stiffed, thus the post that later became viral.

This and all other incidents could have been prevented had there been a readily available solution that could verify the IDs. Persons with disabilities are already bullied in the school yard, community, work place and sometimes in their own homes by their own immediate family members. The ID is meant to give PWDs some kind of reprieve from the heavy and punishing rigors of social indifference and ignorance, while also the government’s way of giving them some extra benefit to assist with their already burgeoning medical bills therapy costs. Pinoys with disabilities are citizens too. They deserve no less from the government.

Purpose

We want to give vendors and those who will transact with PWDs, an online way of immediately verifying a PWD ID through its ID number. The resulting website allows the user to enter the PWD ID number and instantly get confirmation if the PWD ID is verified. Along with this information, the website will also show where PWD ID was first issued, along with a photo of the PWD ID and the expiration date of the ID. All PWD IDs expire after three years. The ID also shows the category of the disability but does not disclose the exact nature of the disability, a way of protecting the privacy of the ID holder.

We in PWD Philippines already have more than 1,000 PWD IDs from our members. Our current member roster is in the neighborhood of about 25 thousand Pinoys with disabilities. Our supporters include the PWDs themselves and 3 or 4 of their family members or immediate support system. We might be able to get some municipalities, courtesy of their PDAO chairpersons, to cooperate with us and get a copy of the PWD IDs that they have issued. However, to do this on a nationwide scope will need the resources and assistance of the Philippine Information Agency, which maintains information officers in most of the barangays across the country. There is also the matter of privacy. We will need to get their consent before we can publish their data in a national database accessible to the public.

Survey

To get the pulse of our members, PWD Philippines has conducted an online survery. We have asked our members three basic questions regarding their experience with the use of the PWD ID after the issue of the Chong family’s PWD ID became public. These questions were:

1. How often do you use your PWD ID?

2. Were you ever denied a discount when you presented your PWD ID?

3. Were you ever harassed, embarrassed or humiliated when you tried to avail of your PWD ID discount?

At the end of the three questions, our survey gave the respondent the chance to make suggestions on how best to resolve issues regarding the integrity of the PWD ID.

Our survey received 64 responses in the two days that the survey was posted on our FB page. 57 of the respondents entered their suggestions.

In the first question, “how often do you use your PWD ID”, this question was formulated to see how dependent the respondents have been on their PWD ID. This frequency of use reflected the extent of their understanding of how much discount a respondent is entitled to, as far as being a PWD is concerned.

Here is a summary of the 64 responses.

I n this summary, it can be seen that the respondents an overwhelming 96.9% of all respondents recognize the benefits of the PWD ID. According to RA 10754, the privileges of the Pinoy with disability include:

1. 20% discount on medicines, entertainment costs such as theaters, cinemas, concert halls and the like, transportation (by air, land and sea included), hotels and lodging places, restaurants, etc.

2. PWDs are entitled to express lane service in banks, government offices, airports and the like.

3. Educational assistance, depending on the project and on the condition that the PWD has met the requirements.

4. 20% on burial and funeral services.

Because of the wide scope of the PWD ID discounts and privileges, many id holders have yet to be informed as to the scope that they are entitled to. This leads to the 26.9% of the respondents using the ID and invoking the discount as often as possible.

This 96.9% who often use the PWD ID discounts and privileges are not just aware of their benefits, but are also believe that their discounts must be recognized by as many institutions and vendors as possible.

Because of this attitude, there have been disputes reported to PWD Philippines that have involved bank tellers and even government employees mostly caused by the lack of awareness of these PWD ID benefits and privileges by the service providers. Some of these complaints have been resolved by simple information as some of the service providers have had absolutely no awareness and sensitivity training on how to transact and react to persons with disabilities. This lack of awareness often results in conflicts, potential lawsuits and vexing controversies.

B eing denied their right to a discount is one of the biggest grievances of Pinoys with disabilities, alongside with discrimination and public ridicule. This has been the crux of the issues on the use of the PWD ID, as well as the reason for the need for on an online verification system.

Our survey proved that 64% or majority of the PWD ID users have experienced problems with their availment of their discounts and other privileges. Speaking to some of our members who took our survey, we learned that the most prevalent reason for not allowing the discount is the vendor’s lack of awareness that their service is covered by the PWD ID discount. Restaurants count as the number 1 establishment that would deny them their discount, followed by hotels and transportation providers.

Among the transportation providers, the most common violators of the RA 10754 are transport network vehicle services. It has been widely observed by most of our members, that TNVS tend not to accept hail requests from passengers who openly admit that they PWDs. Because of the problems with the integrity of the PWD ID, many vendors have become wary of honoring their discounts, all because of a few fake IDs that have come into circulation.

Congressional Rountable Discussion

In February 2020, congressmen Ronnie Ong and Eric Yap of the Ang Probinsyano Party List and ACT-CIS respectively, invited civil society, interest groups and vendor associations to discuss the possible solutions to fake PWD IDs. After a long-winded back and forth discussion, no resolution or proposed solution was arrived at. Most of the things that the resource people said were centered on the sad plight of the PWDs. A situation that we all know too well and would have loved to hear a proposed solution rather than the usual recycled rants.

PWD Philippines suggested early on that there must be revival of the PWD ID verifier once developed by the Department of Health (pwd.doh.gov.ph). However, the IDs in this database are expired because all PWD IDs expired after three years.

The IDs placed in the DOH database were mostly issued by the DSWD or the NCDA as these would have been issued prior to 2017, the year that the law changed and that all PWD IDs have been issued by the local government units since that year. A new database is direly needed now.

Humiliation of PWDs

According to our survey, 54.6% of the respondents have admitted to experiencing embarrassment and humiliation, sometimes ridicule from vendor staff when they were trying to get their discount or requesting for some form of accommodation. This kind of treatment is on top of the usual bullying or harassment that PWDs get from people in their homes or communities.

We often educate our members that any humiliation or public ridicule is punishable with imprisonment as stated in Section 39 of Republic Act 9442. As of this writing, we have yet to hear any confirmed report of anyone who was sent to jail for publicly ridiculing a PWD.

Still, 54.6% is a huge number and should not continue to grow.

100% of our respondents have also made various suggestions on what they believed would put an end to the hassles of using a PWD ID.

Many of the suggestions have all pointed out to the development of a database that is:

  1. Publicly accessible. This is good so that anybody who wishes verify PWD ID number can easily do so, but only after consent from the PWD ID holder is secured.
  2. Uniform across all LGUs with the inclusion of security features.
  3. Permanent for some PWDs with permanent disabilty
  4. Stiffer penalties for those who use fake PWD IDs.
  5. With a national database, renewal might be easier and less trouble when submitting requirements.
  6. A centralized mechanism for the issuance of the PWD ID by an agency under the office of the President.

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