COVID 19: The Story Of Pasigueños With Disabilities
Vladimir Amadeus Felizco-Medina, Staff Writer
Many people from all walks of life, in all facets of the society, wherever they are on the planet, are affected by the CoViD 19 Pandemic. That does not exclude persons with disabilities, or PWDs.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 15 % of the total population has some form of disability. Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) 2010 Census, more or less 1.57 % of the total population is PWDs. According to Mr. Ver Geronimo Cruz of Pasig City – Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PDAO), during the community quarantine, the office became the back office of DSWD National and their estimated number of PWDs in Pasig City is around 10,000 as of 2020.
The Pasig City – Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PC - PDAO) was formally established last October 2020. It is improving its database system to be able to create programs for PWDs that could be measurable. For now, the primary role of the office is to issue PWD IDs in Pasig City.
With all the primary data needed to show the overview of the PWD sector from macro to micro level, let us proceed.
Before, PWDs lived in harmony:
The PWDs has been looked down before. It can be seen from the programs and laws being to and for them. They were following the medical model wherein what PWDs need are medicines, medications, and assistive devices. After that is the charity-based model where they have been viewed as needy and all they need are what we could still consider as band-aid solutions like giving those goods then everything will be ok.
Groups of advocates around the world fought and still are fighting for PWD Rights hence laws were created to level the playing field; from magna carta to accessibility law to employment and more. “To integrate persons with disability” has been a battle cry of the sector. After the fight for integration is the fight for the rights to level the playing field because most of the things non-PWDs can do, PWDs can, and sometimes they also excel.
Pasig City has been a PWD-friendly city for years now and it has hosted some national and local PWD events.
Many private businesses in the City have also employed PWDs. The city government down to its barangay level has done the same. They should be role models, of course.
In terms of accessibility, many of its new government facilities are accessible and the city has been implementing the Batas Pambansa 344 (Accessibility Law) especially to new establishments so PWDs could move around with less restrictions. As a result, many PWDs have become more productive.
In terms of education, there are SpEd schools in the city. Public school students are well provided.
In terms of health, there are hospitals and centers where PWDs could go to. To reduce the bottleneck in hospitals, there are Super Health Centers, and each of the 30 barangays in Pasig City has a Barangay Health Center. There are also dialysis centers.
Pasig City is one of the few with PWD Associations in all its barangays. Pasig City has 30 barangays. They are partners in bringing down programs to the sector. The maneuvering of resources and information dissemination is a lot easier.
Then everything changed, when CoViD 19 Pandemic arrived:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The goal of the sector is to be a contributing factor in the development of the society. Its goal is to make PWDs more self-reliant, more productive, and well-integrated in the society. But how, with all these going on and the world has been plummeting down and going back to what used to be normal is still in question? All the progress made by and for the sector has been affected. So, what is life now for many Pasigueños with Disabilities?
The start of the school year has been moved and the face-to-face mode of teaching will become thru gadgets. Many question the effectiveness of online teaching for non-PWD students; how much more for PWDs?
Unlike how many view PWDs as people who are always in need of help and are unproductive, there are those from the sector who could prove them wrong. One of them is the business-owner named Bernard Tuazon – Santos [54, PWD] who owns a small restaurant earning 50,000.00 a month aside from his income from his apartments.
Unfortunately, due to the community quarantine caused by the CoViD 19 that affects all people from different walks of life, his restaurant was closed and Mr, Santos stop collecting rents from his apartments as his way of helping his tenants. He has seen other business opportunities during the pandemic but he believes that money is not the only thing that runs this world. He has donated goods to frontliners and members of a PWD Association named Bambang PWD Association, Inc. (AKKAPP PWD Association) where he is also a part of. He said that he will already close his restaurant and soon put up another business that will fit the new normal.
When the community quarantine was imposed, transportation was put to halt to limit the movement of the people which aims to stop or slow down the spread of the virus. Hospitals have also been a dangerous place for people with other underlying illnesses. Available blood supplies have become scarce.
Some people with chronic illnesses were heavily affected. Going out for medications has become both challenge and torture not just because they are facing a microscopic enemy but also they have to face the long problem of transportation in Metro Manila: Transportation. Not the congestion of vehicles but the lack thereof. Not all people are fortunate to have their own vehicle hence they hire private ones adding to their expenses reducing their already depleted money they save for these trying times. Barangays provide service vehicles for them but there are times when drivers and other staff are put under quarantine due to the nature of their duty. One solutions of the City Government of Pasig which could also assist frontliners was to allow tricycles as long as they follow protocols but was rejected by the national government. Later in some areas of Pasig, E-trikes were placed whose primary duty is to transport patients.
The availability of blood has also affected PWDs, especially the dialysis patients. Even the most common type O blood has also been a problem for them. Mental Health:
Ms. Jennifer Sunshine Paderes - Masbad [35, PWD, Solo Parent] has been unemployed for 3 years due to her disability. She gets her financial support from her family and meager income from online selling. Before the pandemic, she applied at Pasig City Hall but was delayed due to the community quarantine.
Ms. Masbad now focuses more on online selling but she admits that income is not stable earning her an average of PhP 300.00. She sometimes earns 2 to 3 times a week only. She has also received Social Amelioration Program money from DSWD. Would that be enough for her and family’s daily needs plus her medicines: Escitalopram (Antidepressant) and Quitiapine (Sleeping Pills)? She is keeping her positive attitude and mindset. Ms. Ella [27, PWD] is a mother. She used to earn PhP 4,000.00 (average) from online English teaching but due to the pandemic she now averagely earns PhP 2,000.00. Students in online English teaching are mostly abroad but since it the problem has affected people globally, it is not surprising that jobs like hers are affected too.
Ms. Ella’s mother has only received PhP 5,000.00 when the pandemic started and all people in their house lost their jobs. She said they have only received once from the government. The situation has been difficult for her because she hasn’t taken her medicines (Antidepressants and Rivotril) for 3 months. The situation in many hospitals made things worse as her anxiety and panic attacks get often. She hopes that taking the pandemic seriously and focusing on the solution should be the government’s priority.
Both Ms. Masbad and Ms. Ella show that mental health should still be taken seriously even amidst the CoViD 19 pandemic.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, joblessness soared to 17.7 % in April.
Mr. Christian Paulo Ramos Dosalla [35, Father of PWD], was earning around PhP 30,000.00 before the Pandemic is now jobless. For now, his family has ventured into online selling. Aside from what he earns thru online selling, he has also received SAP. His plan after the current crisis is to find a more stable job. Like Dosalla, Ms. Venus Calamaya Dimaano [43, PWD] who has an orthopedic disability has lost her job. Ms. Dimaano, who was a breadwinner, used to earn around PhP 12,960.00 a month from a private pre-school. Help from private sponsors and the government decreases her worries but only a little. She plans to find a regular and stable job and hopes that the government would create more laws for the employment of PWDs.
Work in the City Government:
Mayor Vico Sotto announced that the City Government of Pasig will operate on a skeletal workforce. Some non-essential for the pandemic response jobs will not be required to go to office but will still be paid.
Ms. Helen Garcia Carmona [47, PWD, Solo Parent] who is a government employee who works in PC-PDAO has decided to continue going to office to be more productive and not have office backlogs. She earns PhP 9,999.98 a month but because she rents service vehicle due to the unavailability of public transportation, her expenses have increased. According to Ms. Carmona, PWD’s with mobility impairment are the ones greatly affected due to the lack of transportation options.
Ms. Arleen Lopez Santos [38, PWD, Solo Parent] has been selling online even before the community quarantine. One of the hurdles for her during the community quarantine is the public transportations. When the quarantine was imposed, she has to walk to the market and going back to her house while carrying supplies. Her sustenance during the pandemic has been from sponsors of organizations she is part of, from her close friends, from the government, and her income. Part of her expenses was medicine for her eyes.
Ms. Michelle Angela Najar [30, PWD, Mother of 2] is a PWD Coordinator in Barangay Bambang, Pasig City. She also has an on and off job. She said she has received food packs and DSWD SAP.
Trying times create opportunity. Many of the people interviewed had online selling as their backup but for Ms. Michelle, it is just another opportunity. She has ventured into online selling. She has been posting different cooked and ready-to-cook food.
Only the government and the people could solve the problems: Just like the State of the Nation Address of Philippine President Rodigo Roa Duterte, the State of the City Address of Pasig City Mayor Victor Ma. Regis Sotto. Will the data-driven mayor address the issue and create concrete plans and solutions? Most likely, yes. The question is, will his plans be inclusive for the vulnerable sector of PWD’s?
Being data-driven as he is let us also see if his plans could help solve the actual problems presented by the people we have interviewed. Long-term and not band-aid solutions are what people need and expect from the brilliant mayor.
We will find out in his State of the City Address.
This is a global crisis. Let us not just rely on the government (or governments). The long-term solution will be coming from us; the people. What can we do as well?