PWDs want their voices heard in Bangsamoro parliament

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Jan) – Persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Bangsamoro communities have expressed their desire to join in the decision-making process of the Bangsamoro government.

Norhanie Mamasabulod-Taha, a polio victim and officer of the association of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Pagalungan, Maguindanao del Sur, uses the railing and pathway intentionally designed for PWDs installed at the municipal hall. Photo taken Tuesday (17 January 2023). MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

In interviews in Maguindanao del Norte and in the Special Geographic Area in Pikit town of Cotabato province on Tuesday, PWDs expressed willingness to participate in the planning, legislation and policy making in the three-year-old Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

“Yes, we were consulted, and parliamentary procedures in the BTA were presented to us. We may not have enough technical knowhow in policy-making and in crafting laws, but we are more than willing to learn so our voices will be heard,” said Kenneth Angas Pasaol, who heads the group of PWDs in the Special Geographic Area of Pikit, North Cotabato.

Norhanie Mamasabulod-Taha, an officer of the PWD association in Pagalungan, Maguindanao del Sur, said their members have been meeting regularly and discussing how to make their presence felt in the Parliament.

“We need decrees or rules to promote our interests in the BARMM,” Taha said, adding that every PWD deserves equal opportunities as those who have no disabilities.

Taha noted the need to look seriously on the civil rights of PWDs, and the construction of railings and pathways in government offices and public places that the PWDs need. Most local government units in the BARMM, she said, are still not aware about the rights of PWDs.

Taha said they also want to have equal opportunities in job creation, social services, and other social protection programs, she added.

“Unlike before that they hide us from the public or our members are insecure of our status, it’s different now because we are more empowered,” she added.

But she said they can best air their views if they will have a sectoral representative in the Parliament. “We pray that with the Bangsamoro government still at the helm our voices will be heard,” Taha added.

During Monday’s visit of European Union Ambassador Luc Veron in Bangsamoro region, he highlighted the need for a massive and extensive public consultation where the marginalized and the vulnerable like the elderlies and persons with disabilities can be reached.

“We hope that more people will be reached, especially those in the remote areas of the region, more voices heard from widely disseminated information and public service efficiently delivered,” he said at the event of the group called Support for Bangsamoro Transition in the Bangsamoro Government Complex.

Pasaol said that as of now, all the PWDs in SGA-Pikit are in a quandary as to their status since the political setup remained unclear for them.

“We are optimistic that the 63 villages will soon be constituted into one political entity with leaders to implement basic social services not only for us PWDs but to all,” he said in the vernacular.

A proposed Bangsamoro PWD code is currently being deliberated upon in the plenary of the BTA.

Pasaol said their group was informed that they should be physically present in the plenary when the draft code will be discussed.

The PWDs in the region are getting support from the Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress (MOSEP) Inc., as well as from The Asia Foundation, in promoting the interests of the disadvantaged sector while a new government structure is in the making in BARMM. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)