The other night, a friend of mine, “Beng,” a fellow writer who works in government, posted an appeal on her Facebook wall: Can anyone put me in touch with the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA)?
This was after she had attempted to renew her son’s PWD ID (person with disability identification) card on Jan. 16 at the Bacoor Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) office and was refused because of an alleged new NCDA guideline on obtaining PWD IDs.
Her story: Her son is diagnosed with autism and is undergoing therapy and other necessary interventions.
He has had a PWD ID for some years now. Beng brought along a medical certificate from her son’s developmental pediatrician. She had to wait several months to get an appointment to consult with the doctor and request for the document.
All in all she paid P3,500 to obtain the certificate.
The certificate declares that Beng’s son is diagnosed with “autism level 2” and that he needs speech and occupational therapy, and to participate in a special education class.
The word “disability” is not mentioned anywhere in the document, for which there is no need because the child’s condition is clearly stated.
However, an employee (we have her first name but not her surname) at the Bacoor PDAO told her the certificate could not be accepted for the renewal because the NCDA allegedly has a new rule that the type of disability should be stated on the medical certificate.
The employee showed Beng a tiny piece of paper (“maliit na maliit na papel”) the list of disabilities from the NCDA. Autism was not among them.
Beng showed the people at the Bacoor PWD office her son’s old PWD ID that she was renewing.
It was stated on that old ID that her son has a “psychosocial disability.”
The people at the Bacoor office themselves were the ones who wrote that on the card when Beng first went there to get a card. She explained to them that autism is a form of psychosocial disability.
The employee hardened her stance (“ipinagmatigasan niya”) that the word “disability” should be stated on the certificate, and the type.
In other words, according to that employee, “autism level 2” on a medical certificate issued by a physician is not enough.
I suppose she was looking for the exact words “psychosocial disability” on the certificate.
Beng asked for consideration based on the old ID as autism is a form of psychosocial disability.
Nope, she was told. She asked if she could send a revised certificate via email. No, she was told she has to present herself physically at the Bacoor PDAO again.
Beng is a working mom. She took a leave from work the day she went to the Bacoor PDAO office to get her son’s PWD ID renewal.
Now she has to take another day off to get this all done again?
What’s even more terrible about the entire thing is that before she went to the Bacoor PDAO, Beng did research online to find out if there were any changes she needed to be aware of regarding paperwork.
She even consulted with the PWD head of their barangay. This is why, she said, she was confident that she had all the right papers with her when she went to the PDAO.
Upon consulting with other friends, one told her that she was able to renew her child’s ID in Cainta swiftly and without any problem, even if their medical certificate did not state the type of disability.
This means the NCDA rule on this (if there is such a rule in the first place) is not being implemented the same way in different LGUs.
It is confusing, annoying, and maddening when officious employees devoid of reading comprehension and critical thinking skills make things even harder for their kababayan.
Instead of helping carry the load, they add to the burden.
What if, Beng said, PWDs themselves went to the Bacoor PDAO for help—people who can’t walk, or see, or hear, or suffer some other disability?
Would they be turned back too, just because they didn’t have the exact words “something or other disability” on their medical certificates, when the diagnoses are clearly stated?
PDAOs are under the mayor’s office—in this case, that of Bacoor Mayor Strike B. Revilla.
I suggest that he look into this and see how PWDs and their families may better be served and assisted, and not treated with disdain – “Huwag nang pabalik-balikin ang mga tao,” as Beng said.
“Dahop na dahop sa pagiging makatao ang ganitong uri ng rules at ganitong uri ng pakikitungo. Walang konsiderasyon sa kapwa. Lalo na sa PWD, mga magulang at guardian ng PWD,” Beng wrote in a letter to NCDA.
[These rules and this sort of interaction exhibit a severe lack of humanity. There is no consideration for others. Particularly for PWDs, their parents, and guardians.]
The NCDA as well should look into how their rules are being implemented.
They should also implement a better communication plan and make PWDs and their families about their rules on PWD IDs and other matters.
In this digital day and age, the NCDA website is a piece of carp.
If there is such a rule as stated by that unhelpful person from Bacoor PDAO, I can’t find it there.
Lack of consideration on the part of some government employees is a perennial problem.
Their lack of understanding of rules or guidelines causes problems for the people they serve, instead of assisting them and trying to make things better.
We’ve all been treated this way, but it’s worse somehow for PWDs.
I hope the NCDA and the Bacoor City government can probe this incident, retrain their employees, and implement a better system that is truly of service to the people.
* * *
Dr. Ortuoste is a board member of PEN Philippines, member of the Manila Critics Circle, and judge of the National Book Awards. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO