By Ben Rosario
The House Special Committee on Persons With Disabilities agreed on Tuesday to exercise congressional oversight power over government agencies tasked under the law to implement various programs for the country’s PWDs.
The House panel, chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, reached the decision after several local and national government agencies snubbed the congressional briefing on PWD programs called by the committee.
“Nobody seems to pay attention to the plight of PWDs. I will ask for more agencies to join us in the next hearing,” said Arroyo, in apparent exasperation.
The wheelchair-bound Arroyo identified among the absentees as officials of the Quezon City government, Department of Education, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Bohol Rep. Edgar Chatto, also a PWD, moved for the use of oversight functions of Congress to determine how departments are carrying out their respective tasks that the law provides to make life more comfortable for disabled persons.
“Our present predicament is not getting the attention that we need in order to act on pending bills. We have to use our oversight functions to check the implementation of PWD laws already approved by Congress so that all agencies will know that we are serious,” said Chatto.
Arroyo heaped praises on the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development for sending representatives to participate in the virtual briefing.
“Your presence is most encouraging because it indicates your concerns and conveys utmost willingness to coordinate and assist this new committee to attend to the PWD sector,” said Arroyo.
Arroyo called the briefing to determine from state agencies the programs put in place to assist differently abled persons during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 crisis made the PWD sector more vulnerable as their difficulties in accessing basic services have been made more difficult. We need to hear today what is being done to help them,” she said.
During the meeting, Chatto proposed a review of the financial assistance program provided under the Bayanihan We Heal as One Act.
The senior administration lawmaker noted that the DSWD disqualified PWDs living alone from receiving cash benefits from the government.
“These PWDs who are living solo are also in dire need of government help as they face the COVID-19 threat. There are PWDs and senior citizens who are living alone. The DSWD must reconsider their plight and include them in future cash assistance programs,” said Chatto.
Miramel Laxa, chief of the DSWD-Program Management Bureau Sectoral Programs, disclosed that records indicate that there are 833,014 households with PWDs – 277,132 of them considered as poor.
Among the regions, CAlabarzon has the highest number of PWDs at 193,000, followed by the National Capital Region at 167,000.
The Cordillera region registered the lowest number of PWDs at 26,000.