In January I wrote a couple of columns about autism, persons with disability (PWDs), and the need for government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to be more sensitive toward the plight of PWDs and their families.
I called on the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) in particular, because they were named in connection with a concern related to the Bacoor, Cavite Persons With Disability Assistance Office (PDAO).
Here’s a recap: I wrote about the experience of “Beng” (“PWD ID snafu shows system inadequacies,” Jan. 18), a writer who had a bad experience at the Bacoor PDAO when she went to renew the ID of her son. She was told that in line with a new regulation of the NCDA, she needed to show a “certificate of disability,” a document that was not required before.
Of course she was not informed of this supposed new requirement beforehand (was anyone?), and thus suffered the inconvenience of being made to return. She went to great expense and waited months for a developmental pediatrician to issue the certificate.
In short, the change in requirements that Bacoor PDAO claimed were imposed by the NCDA made the process more expensive, inconvenient, and burdensome for PWDs and their loved ones who are renewing their IDs.
I followed up that column with a similar one (“It’s National Autism Consciousness Week,” Jan. 25) after a reader wrote to tell me of her similar experience. I received other feedback that showed me these cases are not isolated.
Beng has emailed the NCDA several times.
They replied twice (the signatory is a lawyer who is a division head).
The first time, the lawyer replied (about two weeks after Beng emailed her) that contrary to what the Bacoor PDAO alleged, the NCDA does not require the submission of a certificate of disability.
The lawyer ended by writing, “Should you have other recommendations, we are very much willing to listen and, if necessary, effect the necessary policy changes.”
This heartened Beng, who wrote her again, but this time, she has not received a reply, save for a message instructing her to send her email to another email address.
Beng was also on a long, “useless,” phone call with an NCDA staffer, who basically told her that it was all the fault of the person at the LGU.
“Sa LGU po kasi ‘yan, sila po kasi ang nag-hire [ng taong kumausap sa inyo], kasi po depende sa barangay ‘yan.”
This passing of the buck and refusal to take accountability, or at least offer some solution, confused and irked Beng even more, who asks, is the NCDA then this “powerless” in the face of errors and mistakes in policy implementation on the part of the LGU?
And what is the Bacoor LGU doing about this? Nothing, as far as we know.
The NCDA staffer offered to give Beng the number of the person who is the head of Bacoor PDAO. It’s been a while and Beng is still waiting for the number.
Beng has many recommendations on how the NCDA can improve their policies and thus require LGUs to improve their processes.
Among them are to use digital tools to make processes more streamlined. She also says the NCDA needs an updated database so that the PWD or their family does not need to return to the PDAO/LGU to submit the paperwork that they have already provided.
The NCDA should have all these required documents on file, and the easiest way to manage the volume is to store scans or digital copies of the papers.
The process of capturing, storing, retrieving, and sharing information is known as knowledge management.
It is easy enough for the NCDA, or any other government entity, to find a KM expert to help them set up or improve their KM system. (The Development Academy of the Philippines, I am sure, will be more than willing to extend their assistance.)
The NCDA really needs to improve the digitization of its processes, and I can’t say this often enough.
As I mentioned in their previous column, their website looks like something out of the internet Stone Age.
Their constituents are PWDs, who need access to information. Why make it hard for them?
To be fair, we also need to know if NCDA is operating under constraints.
Do they need more budget?
They were given some P80 million for general support and operations this year.
This doesn’t seem adequate, considering that upgrading hardware, installing new software, and other necessaries for digitization will break the bank.
Do they need more qualified personnel to help with the volume of work, considering they have to take care of PWDs nationwide?
Management should take this into account and hire. Do they lack plantilla items?
The Civil Service Commission and the Department of Budget and Management should take action on this concern that affects many natgovs.
NCDA’s leadership must take the reins in hand and be more proactive in fulfilling their mandate to their constituency, who are among the most vulnerable in our society.
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In other news, the Manila Critics Circle, with the National Book Development Board, has completed deliberations on the milestone 40th cycle of the National Book Awards, which covers 2021 releases.
The annual tilt recognizes outstanding books published for the first time by a Philippine publisher.
The finalists will be announced soon. The awarding ceremony is set on May 13 at the Metropolitan Theater.
The MCC and NBDB are catching up on the NBA post-pandemic, and will soon open nominations for the 41st NBA for books published in 2022.
The awarding ceremony for that will take place at the end of this year.
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The Cultural Center of the Philippine is staging the Performatura Festival 2023 from March 31-April 2, with live and on-site activities happening from 10:30 AM at the Tanghalang Ignacio B. Gimenez (CCP Black Box Theater).
With the theme “Performatura Goes Pop,” the three-day event presents performances, poetry readings, multi-arts workshops, literary talks, spoken word sessions, poetry contest, film screening, book launches, a book and art fair, sneaker shoe auction, and interviews with renowned writers.
Among the many interesting planned activities is a turnover ceremony of the printed copies of the book “In Certain Seasons: Mothers Write in the Time of COVID” with the PEN Philippines and Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines’ Bureau of the Copyright and Related Rights, in line with National Women’s Month. (I co-edited the volume with writer and editor Che Sarigumba.)
While Performatura is open to the public, everyone is encouraged to donate a book, which will serve as an admission ticket to each segment. The collected books will go to the CCP’s partner libraries.
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( 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)