Most LGUs in Caraga ignore laws for PWDs

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/25 July)  –Leaders of persons with disabilities (PWD) in the Caraga region have bewailed the failure of most local government units (LGU) in the area to implement the various laws befitting the sector.

Among others, the laws mandate that PWDs should be allocated one percent of the LGU budget and the establishment of the PWD Affairs Office.

This developed as federated presidents under the Caraga Association of Differently Abled (CAPAD) admitted that they still need to consolidate their ranks to create “the voice” that will pressure LGUs to make them partners in nation building and not as “clients” to be served.

In a gathering attended by 40 federated PWD leaders here last Thursday, organizers lamented the poor compliance of LGUs in implementing Republic Act 9442 or the Magna Carta on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Batas Pambansa 344 or the Accessibility Law, RA 10070, and international laws and agreements on the rights of PWDs.

RA 10070 is the act establishing an institutional mechanism to ensure the implementation of programs and services for PWDs in every province, city and municipality.

“The main issue that we’re confronting now is that there are existing laws that are not actually implemented,” said Marieta S. Jandayan, one of the board of governors of the Katipunan ng mga Kapansanan sa Pilipinas, Inc. (KAMPI).

Jandayan, a polio victim at age 2, stressed that LGUs must consider PWDs not as “clients” but as partners in economic development.

“We are not asking for pity, we are asking for equal treatment,” Jandayan said at the sidelines of the PWD General Assembly held at the Goat2Geder Hotel and Restaurant here in line with the 34th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week.

Jandayan, who is also the president of the Women with Disability Group-Butuan chapter, also said the government is the 20th signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of PWD, but wondered if the state has complied with the statute.

“The laws are already there but the question is are these implemented in the grassroots?” she asked.

Wilma Geralla, Department of Social Welfare and Development Caraga regional focal person on PWDs, stressed that only a few LGUs are compliant to the laws for PWDs.

Asserting that LGUs still do not prioritize the PWDs, she noted that there are cases when sectoral representation to the council have been allegedly blocked by local chief executives.

In the case of  Agusan del Sur, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed a resolution creating a sectoral representative in the council but was not implemented because of lack of action from the executive department.

Organizers also cited the attendance in last week’s gathering where of the 70 federated PWD leaders expected to attend, only 40 came.

Geralla said the LGUs might have failed to allocate a budget for the transportation of the PWDs to the event and that the information may not have been disseminated properly to them.

“[But] the challenge for the sector will still come from their ranks so they will be able to assert their rights and privileges,” the social welfare officer said.

Delfin M. Antallan, CAPAD president, said that “LGUs that offer financial assistance to PWDs are doing so to get “pogi” (positive) points” from the constituents.

In Surigao City, the annual budget for PWDs has remained the same for the last five years, Antallan said without giving figures.

In Surigao del Norte, only the towns of Bacuag and Claver have complied with the mandatory one percent budget share allocation for PWDs.

Butuan City and its neighboring municipalities in Agusan del Norte have not complied with this law.

KAMPI’s Jandayan said the PWD sector should work in unison to get what they deserve under the law.

“We should strive to have a one voice and unite so we can sing together a beautiful music,” Jandayan added.

A retired non-commission officer of the Philippine Army, whose leg was blown up by a landmine while on a military training in Jolo in 1974, urged PWDs to be listed so they can avail of benefits accorded the sector, such as the 20% discount on medicine and transportation.

Antallan and Jandayan have vowed to double their efforts in advocacy work with the help of partner organizations to lobby government agencies and LGUs to implement their mandated responsibilities to the PWD sector (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)