The House Special Committee on Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday gave its chairperson the blanket authority to issue subpoenas to six members of a Quezon City family and city officials in connection with alleged irregularities in the issuance of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) discount privilege cards.
Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Michael Defensor moved for the issuance of subpoenas to six members of the Chong family as he rejected the appearance of their lawyer, Jose Raulito Paras, to represent the six family members in the congressional investigation.
Defensor warned that the issuance of subpoenas may result in the arrest of the Chongs and other persons summoned if they fail to show up in the next hearing.
Paras cited a letter of his client, Caroline Chong , appealing to Negros Occidental Rep. Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, committee chairperson, to spare them from personally appearing in the hearings, pointing out that they have been subjected to death threats and cyber bullying over the PWD card controversy.
Mrs. Chong and her five daughters have been exposed to the controversy for trying to use their PWD cards to get 20 percent discount on food purchases from the HK Little Kitchen in QC. Although they accepted the denial of their discount privileges, photographs of their PWD cards later went viral in the social media after being posted allegedly by persons connected with the restaurant.
The viral social media posts caught the attention of ACT CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Go-Yap, who filed a resolution urging the disabled persons panel to a conduct a congressional inquiry.
Aside from the Chong family, also to be subpoenaed are Renato Caday, chief of the QC Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PDAO) and his predecessor, Arnold de Guzman.
“We are now governed by the rules of investigation, so with due respect Atty. Paras, under our rules, you cannot be speaking on behalf of the Chong family,” said Defensor even as he assured the lawyer that he can sit beside his clients to advise them of their rights under the law.
Defensor, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, noted that none among the Chongs have so far attended any of the committee hearings.
Arroyo said she will not hesitate to cite in contempt persons summoned via subpoena should they fail to attend the next hearing. However, she accepted Paras’ pledge to bring his clients in the next scheduled proceedings.
Quezon City Rep. Onyx Crisologo also assured the Chong family and others summoned by the House panel that they will be treated with respect as the House panel attempts to get into the bottom of the controversy.
Arroyo is convinced that the PWD cards issued to the Chong family may have passed through regular processes but noted that abuses may have also been committed by the QC-PDAO in the wholesale issuance of privilege cards.
The six Chong family members applied and were issued the PWD cards after presenting to the QC PDAO doctor’s certificates attesting that they were suffering various degrees of astigmatism.
Prescilla Cuevas, who represented the Department of Health, said astigmatism is not covered by the PWD privilege card.
Citing the DOH statement, Crisologo said the doctors that issued the medical certificate to the Chongs should also be subpoenaed.