De Lima bats for a full-fledged commission for PWDs

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a bill elevating the 38-year-old National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) into a full-blown commission to address the gaps in the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities (PWDs).

De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2166, also known as the “National Commission on Disability Affairs Act,” which strengthens its role as the lead agency in developing policies and implementing programs to address the concerns of the PWD sector.

“Persons with disabilities should have stronger protection under the law and ensuring their protection starts with raising awareness of their rights as citizens, and as citizens with special needs,” she said.

Under the proposed measure, the Commission shall be the lead policy-making, planning, monitoring, and coordinating body that would develop, formulate and implement programs for the prevention and rehabilitation of disabilities.

It is also mandated to establish a comprehensive data bank on disability through a National Registry of PWDs that shall be the basis of any policy formulation for the PWD sector’s welfare.

“As of date, there is no single comprehensive database on PWDs in the Philippines, thus the need to establish one. While the Census provides a figure for the PWD population, other data sources have different estimates,” De Lima pointed out.

“This shows how the PWD sector is often given low priority and/or is even completely excluded from official statistics,” she said, mindful that the recent survey on PWDs has been conducted in 2010.

Based on official figures, out of the estimated 92.1 million household population in 2010, there are at least 1.4 million people with disabilities – or 1.57 percent of the entire population had disability.

“The lack of a comprehensive prevalence study on disability and significant demographic and socio-economic information on the sector could be one of the hindrances to the adoption of policies and programs that address the rights of PWDs,” De Lima added.

De Lima, a champion of social justice, lamented though that despite the numerous laws in the country, many of the PWDs still remain a neglected and marginalized sector in the country to date.

“Despite copious laws safeguarding the welfare of the PWDs, many still do not have access to basic needs such as healthcare, education, employment, and the proper interventions required of their disability,” she said.

Once enacted into law, De Lima’s measure seeks to widen the mandate of the proposed NCDA to “fulfil the multi-dimensional needs of PWDs beyond schooling, to include their work productivity and well-being.”

As both a parent and a grandparent to children born with autism, the lady Senator from Bicol has tirelessly championed reforms that would benefit the welfare of PWDs as she considers this issue as personal to her.

Aside from SB No. 2166, she has also authored other measures concerning the welfare of PWDs which includes, among others, SB No. 1433 or the “Autism Care Act” and Senate Resolution (SR) No. 7277 – to conduct an inquiry on the status of the Accessibility Law and the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. De Lima also co-authored SB No. 1674, or the “Allowing Access to PWDs with Guide Animals Act” and SB. No. 1391, or the “Mandatory Philhealth Coverage for Persons with Disability Act”.

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