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Filipino PWDs this Aprill 2019

Being able to study in an environment that allows persons with disabilities (PWDs) study alongside their non-PWD counterparts would mean nothing if PWDs wouldn’t even be able to exercise their right: their right to suffrage.
Yet “there were still some cases where PWDs go home without casting their votes due to inaccessibility of some polling areas or lack of assistance from election board officers,” commented Dr. Maureen Mata from the Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAP) in a report.
This has been evident during the 2018 barangay elections.
May kakulangan po talaga sa Comelec. Kulang na kulang po. Parang nakikita namin, 1 percent of the 100 percent that we are expecting from the government agency para ma-implement ‘yung mga patakaran,” she added.
As per the Comelec’s initial data, 270,082 PWDs and senior citizens registered to vote in 6,709 accessible clustered precincts in all regions nationwide, except for the Ilocos Region.
There are also 867 emergency accessible polling places (EAPPs) in NCR, CAR, Regions IV-A, IV-B, V, VII, and VII.

“Ang karapatan ng pagboto ay hindi magiging totoo habang ang mga magaaral na may kapansanan ay nakikipag-laban araw-araw sa isang kapaligiran na hindi siya kasali.” ~Carmen Reyes-Zubiaga

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the ABS-CBN News 

Note: During the 2016 national elections, an act that authorized Comelec to establish accessible polling places (APPs) for PWDs and senior citizens– Republic Act 10366–was implemented. It led PWD groups to dub the said election as the “first disability-inclusive elections in the history of the Philippines.”

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Filipino PWDs this March 2019

Amidst the current government measure providing mandatory health coverage1 to persons with disabilities (PWDs), the US State Department has reported in its annual human rights report2 that the latter “continued to face discrimination” in 2018 since the policy crafted by the National Council for Disability Affairs that same year to help them “was not effectively enforced”.

It pointed the inaccessibility of public buildings, limited transportation access, separate education centers, lack of a clear system to inform parents of PWDs with their educational rights, lack of a well-defined procedure for reporting discrimination in education, lack of offices dedicated for PWDs in 40% local government units, and discrimination in hiring and employment.

The US State Department seemed to forget to note, though, about the Mental Health Law (Republic Act 11036) signed into law in June 20, 2018. It will integrate mental health services, promote mental health services, protect the people who availed those services, establish a mental health council in the country, and prohibit discrimination against PWDs.

In any case, this month, the province of Camarines Norte has drafted its “Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (LDRRMP)” for the next five years. The Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) has also donated a 29-seater Toyota Coaster to the Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC). Novels, textbooks, and other printed materials currently limited in distribution and production by copyright law were secured by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) for more than three million visually-impaired Filipinos.

Occupational therapy was also legislated recently. Entitled “Philippine Occupational Therapy Law of 2018” (Republic Act 11241), it has sought to create the Professional Regulatory Board of Occupational Therapy, which will issue or cancel registration and licenses for the practice of occupational therapy.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” ~ Muhammad Ali

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the CNN Philippines

1The health coverage—mandated in the Republic Act 11228—will be under the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) National Health Insurance Program.

2The “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018” was produced by the US State Department on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states since 1977.

Filipino PWDs this February 2019

Had there been persons with disabilities who took advantage of the early registration?

The latest data that The PWD Forum could find was from a report in February 7. A total of 760,530 incoming kindergarten, and grades 1, 7 and 11 had preregistered in public schools across the country for School Year 2019 to 2020—11 days  after the Department of Education (DepEd) announced the Early Registration Module of the Learner Information System (LIS).

About 215,363 came from Region 4-A or Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), 127,285 from the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), 69,257 from Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), and 64,972 from Region 10 (Northern Mindanao).

In 2010, most of the persons with disabilities in the country are in Region IV-A.

In any case, the secretary of the Department of Health has agreed that students should be made to understand mental health conditions.

Dapat pinapakilala na itong pagtanggal sa stigma sa eskuwelahan pa lamang para yung mga bata maintindihan na may ganitong mental health conditions na kailangan maintindihan at tugunan ng tama at hindi ibig sabihin ay hopeless case na yung kondisyon,” he has said in the report.

Letting PWDs study alongside non-PWDs has been one of the things I aimed for when I started this blog. I have no doubts that this will help everyone just like what it has done to Palestinian artist Mohamed Dalo; Czech athletes Jiří Ježek, Martin Kovář, Běla Hlaváčková, and Petra Kurková; and Bahamians Townsely Roberts and Gary Russell.

If PWDs and non-PWDs study together, as I have argued when The PWD Forum turned four, there would be no need to build exclusive educational institutions. Even PWDs can finish degrees: Maricel Apatan, Marc Joseph EscoraSafiya Mundus, Arnel Navales Aba, and Godfrey Esperanzate Taberna. We just have to believe.

Apparently, not everyone is willing to give PWDs a chance. The JCSGO Christian Academy has been alleged in a report to have discriminated an incoming third grade student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Under education for all, wala tayo dapat tinatanggihan ang bata na mag-aral, anuman ang kanyang maging kalagayan. Kailangan nating mabigyan ng pantay na karapatan ang lahat ng bata para makapag-aral.” ~ DepEd National Capital Region Director Willie Cabral

Filipino PWDs this January 2019

The onset of the year has been promising for persons with disabilities in the Philippines.

For one, the education department’s secretary has called on them to register.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has issued this in DepEd Order No. 3 series of 2018. The Early Registration, which is based on the “Basic Education Enrollment Policy,” covers incoming kinder, grade 7 and grade 11 learners in public schools. Out-of-school children (OSC) and youth (OSY) in the community are also invited as well as those living in an off-grid community, in a barangay without a school, in a geographically isolated area, in an armed conflict area, in an area with high level of criminality/drug abuse, in conflict with the law, and on the streets.

Those displaced due to natural disaster could also register even the victims of child abuse or economic exploitation, stateless or undocumented, and those who are no longer in school but interested in going back to schools.

Letting persons with disabilities study alongside non-PWDs has been my suggestion since February 19, 2016 when I’ve written about Austria and how it’s taking care of PWDs in the country. It has legislated integrative schooling in 1993 during the first eight years of a child. This is also what is being observed in Spain and Malaysia.

The PWD Forum has pushed for the integration of special education in the basic and secondary curriculum in the country. It has reiterated that after The PWD Forum turned one in the blogosphere and even after it turned twoThe PWD Forum has also made a case on the necessity, benefit, and practicality of sign language if only it is taught to every one.

In the Philippines, this has been the case at the Carmona National High School (CNHS) in Cavite. Education is an equalizer, pointed by Atty. Liza D. Corro, chancellor of University of the Philippines-Cebu, in a post.

The government has also implemented the value-added tax (VAT) exemption on sale of medicines—regardless of brands—for diabetes, high cholesterol,  and hypertension as mandated by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, or TRAIN law.

And, most important of all, the law that could provide affordable mental health services for Filipinos–the Mental Health Law (Republic Act 11036)–has been signed after more or less 28 years. It could secure the rights and welfare of persons with mental health needs, provide services for them even in barangays, improve mental healthcare facilities, and promote mental health education in schools and workplaces.

“Disability is one of the many forms in which human life occurs: it should be accepted as such and the people concerned should not be excluded in any way from participating in society.” ~ Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs in co-operation with Österreichische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Rehabilitation

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of GMA Public Affairs

Mental health in the Philippines

After more or less 28 years, the law that could provide affordable mental health services for Filipinos has been signed.

Referred to as the Mental Health Law, the Republic Act 11036 would secure the rights and welfare of persons with mental health needs, provide services for them even in barangays, improve mental healthcare facilities, and promote mental health education in schools and workplaces.

It also aims to (1) provide psychiatric, neurologic and psychosocial services to the regional and other tertiary level hospitals, (2) add mental health service providers, and (3) introduce anti-stigma or anti-discrimination programs in schools and workplaces. Mental healthcare would not just be concentrated in urban areas anymore and would highlight the importance of research required to formulate and develop culturally-relevant national mental health programs.

The Mental Health Law has been signed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Bengino Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo Angara, and Joel Villanueva.

A Human Right

Before the Mental Health Law was legislated, there have been at least 16 other bills focusing on mental health.

Former senator Orlando Mercado was the first one to file an act about it in 1989. The next year, another version was filed by Senator Jose Lina. Then in 2000, Executive Order 470 was issued, creating a council for mental health attached to the Department of Health (DOH).

The Philippine Mental Health Policy came into being in 2001, signed by former health secretary Manuel M. Dayrit. But it was revised four years after over 4.5 million cases of depression had been reported.

The figures went down as a result but the cases of anxiety and alcoholism have gone up in the succeeding years. Suicide, too, which was “seriously contemplated” by Filipino students as young as 13 years old. By 2012, 2,558 Filipinos died by suicide (World Health Organization) and 1 in 5 Filipino adults has some form of mental illness (Department of Health).

The destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) across the central Philippines—particularly in Marabut, Samar, Carles, and Estancia—led the government to scale up its community mental health programs and train city and municipal health officers in identifying mental health problems. It spearheaded the first public health convention on PWDs in order to improve their access to health and wellness services.

Then it signed an administrative order in 2016 for the nationwide implementation of its mental health program. It also created a national hotline for mental health assistance in 2017. That same year, the Senate passed the Senate Bill 1354 or the Mental Health Act of 2017 that enable affordable and accessible mental health services to Filipinos.

Globally, more than 300 million people are living with depression so, in the Philippines,  the DOH together with the WHO and the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation launched Hopeline, a 24-hour phone-based counseling service for individuals who suffer from that. Other organizations that are helping are the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Incorporated, Silakbo PH, Isanliyab Servant Leaders’ Union, and Where There Is Hope (WTIH).

Mental health is important because all aspects of people’s lives is affected by it. Depression, suicidal ideation, and bipolar disorder are currently the most common mental health problems in the country, and one in every three Filipinos has a mental health problem1. There is only one psychiatrist for every 250,000 mentally ill patients, though, and the fund set aside for mental health is just five percent of the health department’s total annual budget2.

Furthermore, most of the mental health facilities and institutions are within the National Capital Region3. Most of the victims are overseas Filipino workers, residents of typhoon-prone areas, families that have abusive parents, and those that lived through disasters and violence.

With these in mind, The PWD Forum cannot but echo a Philippine senator’s hope for mental health in the country: that it will be eventually accepted as a genuine public concern that requires accessible medical care, consistent government support, and compassionate social understanding.

“Help is finally here. The Mental Health Law cements the government’s commitment to a more holistic approach to healthcare: without sound mental health there can be no genuine physical health.” ~ Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the GMA News

1This estimate was from a population survey conducted by the UP-Philippine General Hospital in Western Visayas more than 20 years ago. It was shared by Dr. Lourdes Ignacio, professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, during her lecture on “Reaching the unreached: Integrating mental health care in general health care” before national academicians and national scientists of the National Academy of Science and Technology.

2From the allotment, 95% goes to the maintenance of mental health institutions and personnel’s salary.

3They are the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong, Cavite Center for Mental Health in Trece Martires, Mariveles Mental Ward in Bataan, and psychiatric wards in the Philippine General Hospital, Makati Medical Center, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center, and Metro Psychotherapy Facility.

Notes:

  1. Depression is a common and serious medical illness that can cause feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to suicidal ideation, which means thinking about or planning suicide.

Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is an illness that causes unusual shifts in mood. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by failure to understand reality. Anxiety causes nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. All of them—depression, suicidal ideation, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety—can be treated through medication, counselling, and social rehabilitation.

  1. In rural areas: mental disorders are a result of other-worldly spirits or witchcraft.
  2. The state-run insurance firm, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) recently added mental illness under its coverage but for severe disorders and short- duration of confinement only.

Michael Fuentespina: the hearing-impaired medic

In a dinner held in held in Etobicoke, Ontario, a member of the Canadian Army and Recipient of the order of Military Merit by the Canadian Government has delivered the 2018 Apolinario Mabini Memorial Lecture of the Dinner of Hope.

He is Chief Warrant Officer Michael Fuentespina, a medic of the Canadian Armed Forces Health Services Group of the Royal Canadian Air Force deployed in Afghanistan. He has served in seven countries (Norway, Germany, United Kingdom, France, United States, Afghanistan, and Bosnia) and received the NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia, Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal, Canadian Decoration, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, General Campaign Star – Afghanistan, and the Member of the Order of Military Merit. He has also participated in the 2016 Invictus Games held in Florida and in the 2017 Invictus Games held in Toronto as a member of Team Canada for the Men’s Road Cycling.

But the Makati native who just moved to Winnipeg when he was two years old has followed a bomb attack during his “tour of duty” as a member of the Counter-IED’s Advisory Response Team during the War in Afghanistan in 2008. He lost his hearing then and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nine years after.

“When I witnessed the death and destruction in Afghanistan, I realized that there is that very real possibility that I may not come back or may be grievously injured and, at the same time, I saw what Canada was doing to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves – it was then that this job which became a profession has now transitioned into a calling,” he was quoted saying in a report.

To date, Officer Fuentespina is assigned in Ottawa as advisor for all Reserve Medical non-commissioned members of the CAF responsible for the development and implementation of policies related to professional development, training and education.

 “Disability or not, we live in a great country that provides endless opportunities if you go out and seek them. Just strive to do your best in an ethical manner and great opportunities will come to you.” ~ Michael Fuentespina

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Michael Chow

Cancer in PhilHealth

Even though cervical cancer screening has been included in a diagnostic package three years ago, the Senate of the Philippines still sought to establish a Philippine Cancer Center as well as a national control program.

In the “Tamang Serbisyo sa Kalusugan ng Pamilya” (Tsekap), cervical cancer was among the medical conditions included in the Enhanced Primary Care Package by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). A total of 15, 068, 028 indigent and sponsored members of the health company can go to either a private or a public hospital that is a Tsekap provider.

But there are still gaps in cancer care, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito reasoned, so he filed Senate Bill 1850 or the “National Integrated Cancer Control Act”. It was approved on third and final reading to be able to, as its title implies, integrate policies for the prevention, detection, correct diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer.

“Through the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, we can give cancer patients a choice, we can give them hope – hope that they will have an equitable and affordable cancer treatment and care especially for the underprivileged and marginalized Filipinos,” Sen. Ejercito was quoted saying in an article.

Under the bill, it will not only be cervical cancer that the PhilHealth can sponsor for but all types and stages of cancer in both adults and children. All member employees and voluntary members shall be covered and compensated by the sickness benefits of the Social Security System and the disability benefits of the Government Service Insurance System.

All health maintenance organizations would be required, too, to cover genetic counseling and testing, cancer screening, and diagnostic and palliative care. The University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital should establish the Philippine Cancer Center and a fund—the Cancer Assistance Fund—to ensure a steady supply of cancer drugs and cancer control related vaccines to patients.

Cancer is the third leading cause of adult death and the 4th for child morbidity in the country. There are an estimated 8 deaths per day for child cancer and up to 11 new cases and 7 deaths per hour for adult cancer based on the record of the Department of Health. This translates to almost 110,000 new cancer cases and over 66,000 cancer deaths every year.

“Through the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, we can give cancer patients a choice, we can give them hope – hope that they will have an equitable and affordable cancer treatment and care especially for the underprivileged and marginalized Filipinos,” Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the Medical Observer