WHILE many business establishments and government buildings in the country have become PWD-friendly, Marikina City is extending this kindness further down the road, quite literally.
Described as a “complete enumeration” of the entire Philippine population, the 2015 Census has ignored crucial data on a significant sector: persons with disabilities (PWD).
The exclusion of questions on disability in the August census does not only leave out a group already lamenting its invisibility in society, but it could also have consequences for the country’s overall development agenda.
The Pro PolitiCS for Peace project organized a forum that brought together 80 PWDs and their partner provincial DSWD supervisors from the 36 constituent municipalities of Maguindanao Province plus Cotabato City.
The organization of People With Disabilities (PWD) of Maguindanao Province engaged the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in a 2-day forum on the broader peace process and other specific issues related to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Initially, the PWD point persons expressed their desire to be updated on the BBL, as they lament being relegated to the margins in the whole issues surrounding the peace process. Finally, their long wait was answered through the forum, “Maguindanao Peace and Security Forum: Linking Normalization Program with Local Risk Reduction and Management Mechanisms”, last November 12-13, 2015 in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.
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Organized by the Pro PolitiCS for Peace project of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), the forum brought together 80 PWDs and their partner provincial DSWD supervisors from the 36 constituent municipalities of Maguindanao Province plus Cotabato City.
The forum was in line with the larger program to mainstream the participation of PWDs in the broader peace process. It gathered the members of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), and PWD to link with the Joint Normalization Council (JNC). Specifically, the discussion focused on the unique challenges facing the PWDs during man-made disasters such as an armed-conflict situation.
Dr. Maureen Ava Mata, Board Member of Alyansa ng May Kapansanang Pinoy, Inc. (AKAP Pinoy) enjoined the participants to exert effort to come out and participate in the goings-on of the government and the peace process in particular. She stressed that the PWDs have much to contribute to good governance saying, “…meron lang tayo kakulangan sa ating katawan; ngunit buong-buo ang ating pag-iisip (We only lack some physical parts of our body; but our mental capability is intact”.
Further Dr. Mata, who lost a leg due to bone cancer, enjoined the participants: Sa mga may kapansanan…please, please mag-isip po tayo nang tama. Magkaroon po tayo ng active participation sa mga pamayanan natin. Ngunit, dapat nagbabasa din tayo. Dapat, nagtatanong din tayo, kung ano ba ang meron at ano ba ang dapat. Makipagtulungan po tayo sa mga social workers natin. Makipagtulungan po tayo sa ating gobyerno (To all persons with disabilities, please think rightly. Let us manifest active participation among our localities. We should always read, and ask what is happening and what needs to be done. Let us work with our social workers. Let us work with the government).
Atty. Al Julkipli, a member of the legal team of the GPH Peace Panel engaged the participants in a lengthy and substantive presentation of the whys and hows of the GPH-MILF Peace Process. He reported that both the Senate and the Lower House are confident that they would be able to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on the deadline, December 16, 2015. Asked if the basic services especially for PWDs will be diminished if the BBL is signed and implemented, he pointed that the basic services of the government will not be abolished or diminished. Although some offices may be abolished or affected during the transition, nonetheless the social services and health are considered frontline services. According to him, these are among the last agencies that will be affected during the transition, leading to the establishment and regular functions of the new regional government.
Some questions pertained to actual implementation of law and order: How can the BBL address the problems of rido, graft and corruption, and illegal drugs? Atty. Julkipli answered that the problem of rido (clan feuds) should be understood beyond the capabilities of the BBL, as this requires behaviour change among the Bangsamoro societies. However, the architecture of peace and order of the BBL can collaborate with all the other mechanisms of the government in maintaining the security of the region should threats to security that may be brought on by rido and other conflicts occur. He further explained that the same could be said of corruption and illegal drugs problem. The BBL cannot solve these problems alone, as these are national and even international problems already. Nonetheless, the BBL can strengthen the system and the existing structure towards more effective governance against corruption and illegal drugs.
Mr. Alexander Manuel, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer (PDRRMO), provided the input on the last day. He presented the provincial disaster management plan, where the participants discovered that the concerns of PWDs during armed conflicts are not specifically mainstreamed in the scheme. They suggested that the provincial framework for disaster management should be enhanced to include armed-conflict as part of provincial disasters that should be managed proactively. The PWDs indicated their willingness to collaborate with the PDRRMC to revisit and enhance the provincial disaster management scheme.
Wheelchair user Sofronio Floro, 54, has carefully assembled an armchair, one of the hundreds he and his fellow workers with disabilities have made the past couple of days.
The Maguindanao People’s Medical Team has conducted a medical mission for people with disabilities as part of a culminating activity of the 37th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week last Saturday.