HUMAN DIGNITY IN THE LAND OF DEMOCRACY

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"We know that equality of individual
ability has never existed and never will,
but we do insist that equality of
opportunity still must be sought."
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
PWDs: HUMAN
DIGNITY IN THE
DEMOCRATIC
PHILIPPINES
PWDs: HUMAN DIGNITY IN THE DEMOCRATIC
PHILIPPINES
-Princess Charm Alsa Cabiling"We know that equality of individual ability has never existed and never will, but we do insist
that equality of opportunity still must be sought."
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Philippines adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and
freedoms regardless of age, race, sex, and disability. The protection of basic human rights,
political and civil rights for all citizens including those with disabilities, is provided for in the
national legislation.
According to the Economic Independence of Disabled Persons Act, persons with disabilities are
persons who cannot perform work in the usual and customary way due to loss of limbs or any
part of the body by injury or absence thereof by birth. “This is further defined in the Magna
Carta for Persons with Disabilities or Republic Act 7277 which states that disabled persons are
“those persons suffering from restrictions from different abilities as a result of a mental, physical
or sensory impairment, to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered
normal for a human being.”
Although the general public is now more aware and open-minded to the plight of the persons
with disabilities (PWD) in the country, it is however true that there are still those who are
insensible to their situation. There are a lot of civic organizations who take initiative in
spearheading fund raising activities such as walk for a cause and the like to be donated to the
institutions helping PWD brethren. Disability is a complex concept that continues to evolve. It
no longer refers to the traditional personal condition of deficit - “being disabled” - which
requires society to either fix through medicine or rehabilitation, or provide care through charity
and welfare programs. According to these perspectives, the lives of Persons with Disabilities
(PWDs) are to be handed over to professionals who control decisions such as where they will
live or go to school, how they will interact with each other, or what support they will receive.
The shift to a social model of disability views the cause of some people being unable to attend
school, get a job, or participate in social life, as a consequence of their interaction with attitudes
or environments in a society which does not accommodate their differences and thus, limits their
participation. With this progressive view, disability is essentially a pathology of society and not
of the individual. There is nothing wrong with the person – they are not sick, or needing to be
cured of their condition. They, however, need to have full access to society and have the right to
live in equality with all others. As in other countries, PWDs in the Philippines are among the
poorest of the poor. They remain the most marginalized and vulnerable sector in the country. In
fact, they are so marginalized that they are not even frequently visible at all in advocacy efforts,
or global as well as local agenda.
THEORITICAL FRAMEWORK
The Philippines as a democratic and presidential country, entails responsibility towards its
citizens including the empowerment of these people regardless of their statuses in the society.
There are citizens who are less fortunate who, were physically challenged, need to be
empowered and to be put in the mainstream of the society. Hence, RA 7277 exists through the
efforts of the congress in the country in order to answer the needs of persons with disabilities
(PWDs).
The philosophies of government are coupled with the progress of the principles of democracy.
Jean Jacques Rousseau accentuated the concept of General Will which basically is relevant to the
theory of Social Contract. According to Social Contract Theory, consent is the basis of
government. It is because people have agreed to be ruled that governments are entitled to rule.
Emile Durkheim stated that the society is more important than the individual and the most visible
symbol of social solidarity is law. Law is the organization of social life in its most stable and
precise form.
In view of this, Baron de Montesquieu conceived the theory of check and balances. In his theory
of separation of powers, he argued that the best way to secure liberty and prevent a government
from becoming corrupt is to divide the powers of government among different actors who would
check one another. The theory of justice of John Rawls is relevant to the issue of disability.
The Department of Health (DOH) is also one of the government agencies that have the
obligation to entertain the health-need of these persons with disabilities (PWDs) in order to
ensure that their health is accommodated properly by the appropriate agency of the government.
But before these things will be realized, this study also checked the problems met by the
government agencies upon implementing RA 7277 in order to be analysed and be given pertinent
recommendations and solutions.
At this point, the theory of each will be treated in detail.
JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU
Social contract theory holds that individuals in the state of nature come together and make
agreements out of self-interest. It is these agreements that give legitimacy to government; people
are ruled by consent. This is called as the “the general will” – a consensus of community spirit in
which we all work for the good of others and of all. Sovereignty is directed always at the public
good, and the general will, therefore, speaks always infallibly to the benefit of the people
Rousseau emphasized the equality and freedom of the citizens. Proper intervention on the part of
the Sovereign is therefore best understood as that which secures the freedom and equality of
citizens rather than that which limits them. Ultimately, the delicate balance between the supreme
authority of the state and the rights of individual citizens is based on a social compact that
protects society against factions and gross differences in wealth and privilege among its
members.
EMILE DURKHEIM
Emile Durkheim said that “Society is more important than the individual. Individuals learn the
morality and values of society.” In the “Division of Labor in Society,” Emile Durkheim stated
that the most visible symbol of social solidarity is law. Law is the organization of social life in its
most stable and precise form. All the essential varieties of social solidarity are reflected in law.
Although the diversity of functions is both useful and necessary, unity does not arise
spontaneously. The task of realizing and maintaining it must be carried out by the state.
Durkheim also contends that “there can be no rich or poor by birth without there being unjust
contracts.” These injustices are found more often in less advances societies, where contractual
relations are less developed (http://ssr1.uchicago.edu/PRELIMS/Theory/ durkheim.html). Yet as
labour becomes more divided up and the social doctrine weakens, these injustices become more
unbearable and people start creating contracts to make relationships fairer. Lastly, Durkheim
makes a pitch for the importance of society over nature. Contracts regulate social life because if
not, people will take advantage of each other. In the broad scheme, liberty and equality are
products of regulation. Man as a social being regulates things in nature, stripping them of their
amoral character. “Man cannot escape from nature save by creating another world in which he
dominates it that world is society.”
On this regard, the theory on check and balances was conceived which was embodied in the
theory by Baron de Montesquieu.
BARON DE MONTESQUIEU
Montesquieu’s theory of the separation of powers highly influenced the drafting of the American
constitution. Montesquieu argued that the best way to secure liberty and prevent a government
from becoming corrupt is to divide the powers of government among different actors who would
check each other. For example, Montesquieu warned that “Were the executive powers not to
have a right of restraining the encroachments of the legislative body, the latter would become
despotic; for as it might arrogate to itself what authority it pleased, it would soon destroy all the
other powers.”
Many governments and organizations are set up using a system of checks and balances, also
known as separation of powers. The intent of checks and balances is to distribute power,
ensuring that a government does not become autocratic. One of the most classic examples of
checks and balances is found in the United States Constitution, which established three branches
of government and outlined their powers. Under this system, no one branch has ultimate power,
and each branch performs most effectively when it acts in the best interests of the nation.
JOHN RAWLES
In the essay entitled “A Rawlsian Perspective on Justice for the Disabled,” by Adam Cureton, the
author illustrates how Rawls’ theory of justice is especially relevant to the issue of disability. He
discusses whether there is a place for “paternalism” in cases of extreme disability, especially
cognitive disability.
The principle of equal liberty ensures that no client is disadvantaged by factors such as race,
gender or class, that all members of society enjoy the freedom necessary to pursue their goals,
whatever they may be.
Each representative in the original position is concerned with his own client’s interests. Although
he does not know what those interests will be, each representative will want to ensure that his
client has the opportunity to pursue them. It would therefore be irrational for any representative
to limit his client’s rights in any way that would prevent him pursuing any goal he could possibly
have. The standards for liberty must be high (http://www.politicalphilosophy.info/stateofnature.
html retrieved oct.15, 2011)
The negotiations envisaged never took place in the form described by contractarians; the contract
is hypothetical, as is the consent. This, indeed, is one of the great criticisms of contractarianism:
a hypothetical contract is not a pale form of a contract; it is no contract at all. There is no real
consent,
and
so
no
real
authority,
in
this
political
framework.
(http://www.politicalphilosophy.info/stateofnature.html retrieved oct.15, 2011)
Article II Sec. 1 of the 1987 Philippine constitution shows the incorporation and adoption of the
concept of General Will. This is the embodiment of the influence of Jean Jacques Rousseau, the
principle of the supremacy of the majority. The organization of the government, especially on the
democratic system, is an adaptation of the ideas of Baron de Montesquieu which is exercised
through the system of checks and balances.
The pursuance of fully serving the sovereign, the government seeks means and ways to deliver
the services to the citizens regardless of sex, age, education and disability. This leads to the
creation of PDAO (Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office) and the enactment of the R.A. 7277
or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.
“A Rawlsian Perspective on Justice for the Disabled” by Adam Cureton, is a careful analysis of
Rawls’ veil of ignorance and original position is given, to illustrate how Rawls’ theory of justice
is especially relevant to the issue of disability. Cureton discusses whether or not there is a place
for “paternalism” in cases of extreme disability, especially cognitive disability. There are a
variety of critiques of paternalism in such cases, for example, regarding the apparent loss of
liberty and integrity of some persons who are borderline cognitively impaired, or who might be
forced to live under certain assumptions about what a “rational” person would choose. Some
philosophers who focus on the disability theorists’ critique of “normalcy” might be concerned
that the “rational” decisional capacity benchmark might actually be a holdover of “normalcy”
under another name. (James, Christine A. (2008) "Philosophy of Disability," Essays in
Philosophy:
Vol.
9:
Iss.
1,
Article
10.
Available
at:
http://commons.pacificu.edu/eip/vol9/iss1/10)
PWDs IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE LAWS
Aside from poverty which is most common, discrimination and prejudice are the major
challenges that persons with disabilities face in their daily life. Because they face all types of
social, physical and economic barriers, policies should gear towards formulating rights-based
and comprehensive set of actions to improve their well-being.
According to the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, the United Nations defines a
“disabled person” as “any person unable to ensure by himself or herself, wholly or partly, the
necessities of a normal individual and/or social life, as a result of deficiency, either congenital or
not, in his or her physical or mental capabilities.” Furthermore, the Declaration states that
disabled persons have the “right…to secure…and retain employment or to engage in a useful,
productive and remunerative occupation and to join trade unions.”
The growing social awareness on the plight of the less fortunate PWDs led the government to
facilitate opportunity for them to develop their potentials so that they can live independently and
enjoy their rights as human beings. The passage of RA 10070 – An Act establishing the
Institutional Mechanism to Ensure the Implementation of Programs and Services for Persons
with Disabilities in every Province, City and Municipality Amending RA 7277, Batas Pambansa
344 or the Accessibility Law in 1983 and Magna Carta for Disabled Persons or Republic Act
7277 in 1992 and RA 9442 – An Act Amending RA 7277 aims to uphold the rights of disabled
persons and be given equal opportunities in the mainstream of society.
In line with this law, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of
Budget and Management issued Joint Circular No. 2003-01 for all Heads of Executive
Department, Bureaus, Offices, Agencies, Commissions and State Universities and Colleges Sec.
29 of the General Appropriations Act for FY 2003 entitled “Setting Aside One Percent of
Government Agency Budget for Programs/Projects Related to Senior Citizens and the Disabled.”
Programs and services have been implemented and provided by the government and nongovernment organizations for C/PWD’s rehabilitation. However, evaluation results of these
interventions show that C/PWDs can benefit from these programs and services if there is
guidance and coordination among implementers, the public and other stakeholders, specifically
the intended to beneficiaries are more aware of PWD rights, programs and services available for
PWDs.
President Fidel V. Ramos in 1993 declared the Proclamation 125 calling for the nationwide
observance of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons to advance disability concerns
further. The goal of this proclamation was to equalize opportunities and promote the full
participation of Filipinos with disabilities in line with the Agenda for Action for the Asian and
Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons. This was translated into a Philippine Action Plan for the
Decade 1993–2002.
Furthermore, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) became an agency separate from
the Department of Children and Families, specifically tasked with serving the needs of Floridians
with developmental disabilities on October 2004. Prior to that time, it existed as the
Developmental Disabilities Program. The APD works in partnership with local communities and
private providers to assist people who have developmental disabilities and their families. APD
also provides assistance in identifying the needs of the people with developmental disabilities for
supports and services (http://apd.myflorida.com/about/).
The Executive Order (EO) No. 437 “Encouraging The Implementation of Community-Based
Rehabilitation (CBR) for persons With Disabilities in the Philippines” on June 21, 2005 by
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Executive Order states in Section1 that all Local
Government Units (LGUs) are encouraged to adopt the Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR)
program in delivering services to their constituents with disabilities and to allocate funds to
support the program. They are also ordered to designate a unit under the office of the local
executive to be responsible for the implementation of the community-based rehabilitation
program in accordance with the police and implementing guidelines set by the national council
for the welfare of the disabled persons to include the promotion and capability building of the
concerned national government agencies shall provide support to LGUs for the effective
implementation of CBR.
As previously stated, it is the government’s function to fulfil its duties towards the people. The
government’s roles are the following: constituent and the ministrant. To date, the Philippine
government has fallen short in the implementation of different existing laws including
international commitments to the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, the
Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in influencing
the promotion, formulation and evaluation of the policies, plans, programs and actions at the
national, regional and local levels. The government also has the legal duty and obligation to fulfil
its commitment when the Philippines became party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities in 2008. Pacta sunt servanda (Agreements must be kept) – the rule that
agreements and stipulations, especially those contained in treaties, must be observed. The
government should no longer delay its fulfilment of duties and obligations to PWDs. That is,
according to the Philippine Coalition on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities.
Constituent functions are those functions which constitute the very bonds of society and are
compulsory in nature like keeping the order and providing for the protection of persons and
property; the fixing of legal relations between man and wife, and between parents and child; the
regulation of property and the determination of contract rights; the definition and punishment of
crime, the administration of justice, the determination of political duties, privileges and relations
of citizens, dealings of the state with foreign powers, the preservation of the state from external
danger and the advancement of international interest.
On the other hand, ministrant functions are those that are undertaken only by way of advancing
the general interests of society and are merely optional. Examples are public works, public
education, public charity, health and safety regulations and regulations of trade and industry
(http://politicsandgovernance.blogspot.com/2010/06/functions-of government. htm, date of
retrieval: September 22, 2011, 1:39PM).
Rules and Regulations Implementing Executive Order No. 261 Rule IV – Role of Each
Organization enumerates in Section 1 that the role of the government agencies are to; 1.
Recommend policies and programs for strengthening vocational training and employment of
persons with disabilities and prevention of causes of disability in line with OSH standards;
2.Conduct basic occupational safety and health training courses for PWDs; 3. Collect, maintain
and make available all relevant data and information concerning the training and employment of
PWDs; 4. Conduct relevant studies and researches relative to the training and employment of
PWDs; 5. Develop information materials and conduct information campaign to promote training,
employment and development of work values and attitudes of PWDs; 6. Provide assistance to
employers and trade unions relative to the recruitment selection, training, employment,
occupational safety and health, and rehabilitation of PWDs; 7. Issue memoranda to LGUs to
effect the implement of EO 261.8. Formulate policy for the adaption of alternative work
arrangements for PWDs by employers;9. Ensure that information on training, employment and
vocational rehabilitation opportunities are made available at all national agencies and local
government units; and10. Provide rehabilitation facilities to PWDs who will avail of the
rehabilitation services; and 11. Include in each agency Annual Work and Financial Plans the
budget necessary to ensure the implementation of this Executive Order.
Hence, the government under its ministrant functions initiated an action that led to the enactment
of RA 7277 also known as the Magna Carta for disabled persons that aims to advance the
interests of persons with disabilities for them to be useful and productive in our society. Hence,
there is a degree of implementation of its ministrant functions whether this certain program of
the government has something to do for the welfare of the PWDs in the country, in general.
Although we say that the general public is now more open in the situation of the persons with
disabilities, it is still undeniable that there still is that presence of abuse towards them even in the
workplace. It was found out in the study Monitoring Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities
in 2009 that the PWDs have very frequent Discrimination and inequality in work experiences
(NIR of -22%). In the Review of Legislative and Policy Framework, the national laws
implemented in concordance to the international laws ratified for the welfare of the PWD, these
laws embody the rights and entitlements of persons with disabilities. They include provisions
that remove conditions, such as discrimination, that adversely affect the development of persons
with disabilities.
Discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability in regard to job application
procedures; the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees; employee compensation; job
training; and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment is prohibited. An employer
must make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an
otherwise qualified individual with a disability, who is an applicant or employee, unless such
covered entity has demonstrated that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the
operation of the business of such covered entity. However, each individual is responsible for
initiating the request for reasonable accommodation, if such individual believes such
accommodation is required to enable them to perform the essential functions of the job (The
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 121101).
In connection to this, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through its
Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO), has teamed up with the National
Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) and SM Supermalls for the first ever Information and
Communications Technology (ICT) job fair for persons with disabilities (PWDs) last June 15,
2012 at the Cyberzone, SM North EDSA Annex, Quezon City. The job fair dubbed, “ICT:
Enabling People, an ICT Job and Skills Fair for PWDs.”
Similarly, it gave an opportunity for employers in the ICT industry to appreciate the talents and
capabilities of PWDs, as well as to inspire participants that anything is possible with ICT,
including giving opportunities for PWDs to make a niche in their chosen ICT-related careers.
EQUALITY DESPITE DISABILITY
Every Filipino citizen is equal under the rule of law. All must be given due service regardless of
sex, age, educational attainment and ability. The government as an institution must implement
the laws regarding the PWDs. Philippines has good and responsive laws towards the welfare of
the PWDs but were not properly taken and implemented in the local areas. Budget concern is the
main issue when it comes to the implementation since a project cannot be pursued without
financial source. There are other means in generating funds aside from the budget the allocation
coming from the central government. A certain locality can proceed with the viable solution of
PPP of the Private-Public Partnerships. Since a big number of the PWDs in the country are not
belonging to the mentally retarded or mentally ill category, PWDs can work in a handicraft
business.
In this manner, PWDs will be able to contribute to the betterment of the country through their
service. Furthermore, they will no longer be considered as burden to the society as viewed for so
long. In lieu of this, it will boost their confidence and thus they can participate more in the
government programs without being ashamed of their situation.
“From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result
must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal
position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are
therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or
the other, but not both at the same time.” Friedrich August Hayek said. As a common adage,
“Those who have less in life must have more in law.” There is great need to advance the welfare
of these people, to create and provide opportunities on the side of the government so that PWDs’
contribution to the society and to the economy could be seen for it is an undeniable fact that we
have plenty of differently abled brethren who are skilled in their own crafts but not given due
attention since they were seen as mere vegetables rather active participants to the development of
our nation.