By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Negros Occidental 5th district Rep. Ma. Lourdes “Marilou” T. Arroyo is calling on her colleagues to review the implementation of the Filipino Sign Language Act to ensure that the rights of the Deaf community in the country are protected and that they have access to information, education, and health services during this time of COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
The chairperson of the House Special Committee on Persons with Disability filed House Resolution No. 955 directing the Inter-Agency Council to submit to the House of Representatives a “comprehensive” report on the monitoring and implementation of Republic Act No. 11106, which was signed into law by President Duterte in November 2018.
“During this crisis when information is constantly changing, getting information to the deaf and people with hearing loss is not easy,” she said.
She noted that under RA 11106, the Inter-Agency Council is required to make an annual report on the monitoring and implementation of the law and submit it to both houses of Congress, and publicly disclose it.
RA 11106 declares the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the national sign language of the Filipino deaf and the official sign language of government in all transactions involving the deaf. The law mandates the use of FSL in schools, broadcast media, and workplaces.
Citing the report of the Manila Bulletin, she said an alliance of Deaf and hearing advocates has been formed to ensure the Deaf community’s equal access to information.
“It says that the alliance was formed recognizing the lack of sign language interpreters in TV stations during the announcement of the community quarantine and that interpreters had to designate a portion of their houses as their workstation to comply with the standards of TV inset,” Arroyo said.
She said all briefings of the Department of Health (DOH) as well as official advisory of the government on rules and guidelines during COVID-19 crisis should be made accessible to all citizens including our persons with disabilities.
Under HR 955, the House leader also asked private health facilities to provide access to health services to all deaf patients and their family members.
Under HR 955, the House leader expressed her panel’s readiness to look into the delayed issuance of the implementing rules and regulations of the law.
“There is a need to find out the reason behind the delay or inaction of the different government agencies involved in crafting the IRR of RA No. 11106 in order to diminish the severe risk to the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities especially the deaf and hard of hearing by timely and accurate health information surrounding the outbreak,” she said.
Section 13 of the law provides that the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino promulgate the implementing rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the proposed Act within 180 days after its effectivity date. That should be done in coordination with the Secretary of Education, chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), director general of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), chairperson of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ), in consultation with the representative of deaf community, teachers with knowledge and experience with the use of FSL in deaf education, academe, interpreters.