MORE PRIVILEGES AND RIGHTS TO PWDs
By: Nica Marsha Gasapo on June 13, 2019
On May 27, 2019, House Bill (HB) 9106 (HB 9106) entitled “An Act Granting Additional Privileges to Persons with Disabilities,” was approved on third reading by members of the House of Representatives of the 17th Congress, and transmitted to the Senate on May 28, 2019. The bill seeks to amend the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities (Republic Act 7277, as amended, or the ‘Magna Carta’ and grant additional privileges to persons with disabilities (PWDs). Although the 17th Congress ended its sessions last week without the bill being enrolled or passed into law, we expect HB 9106, or the amendments it proposes, will be refiled with the next Congress for their consideration.
The amendments which HB 9106 seeks to introduce to the Magna Carta are significant.
The most important amendment it proposes is the expansion of the obligation to hire PWDs in private corporations. The bill seeks to mandate all private corporations to reserve at least 1 percent of all positions to PWDs. It further provides that in case a private corporation has more than 1,000 employees, it shall reserve 2 percent of all positions for qualified PWDs. Without this amendment, the obligation to hire PWDs or reserve positions to PWDs applies only to all government agencies, offices or corporations. The private sector is merely ‘encouraged’ to employ, or reserve positions for PWDs.
The bill also strengthens existing measures to encourage active participation of the private sector in promoting the rights of PWDs. This is by granting private entities that employ PWDs as regular employees with an additional deduction from their gross income, equivalent to 50 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs. Current laws provided for an additional deduction from gross income of only 25 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to disabled persons.
Moreover, the measure provides that in case there is no qualified PWD for the reserved position after thirty days from the mandatory publication of the job vacancy reserved for PWDs, the employer may hire a non-PWD person. The employer, must, however, secure a prior approval from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
In addition, HB 9106 seeks to grant PWDs a monthly stipend in the amount of P500.00 This monthly stipend is intended for the daily subsistence, medical, and other needs of marginalized PWDs. However, this monthly stipend, is given only to those PWDs who do not receive other monetary assistance such as those granted to senior citizens and beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
To help reintegrate marginalized PWDs in the mainstream of society, the bill aims to provide marginalized PWDs with free assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, prostheses, hearing aids, and the like. HB 9106 also intends to provide assistive technology services, which are services that directly assist a PWD in selecting, acquiring, and using assistive devices and technology. The marginalized PWD beneficiary must be certified by the Health office of the local government unit concerned.
Through the bill, PWDs shall also be entitled to exemption from passport processing fees, travel taxes, terminal fees, and other charges levied in airports, ports, and other terminals by the government, its agencies, instrumentalities, or other government-owned or controlled corporations.
Lastly, it amends the Magna Carta to make PWD identification cards of persons with permanent disabilities free of charge and valid through the lifetime of the cardholder. The permanent disability must be certified by the municipal or city health office and verified by the local Social Welfare Development Office.
Through these additional privileges and rights conferred to PWDs, the legislature expresses its efforts to provide policy towards the rehabilitation, self-development, and self-reliance of PWDs. By providing measures which guarantee the rights of PWDs to employment, health, education, and auxiliary services, the proposed law can become a great equalizer. Also, by granting tax benefits to employers of PWDs, it can ensure the right to equal employment opportunities of PWDs.
Although we are far from totally abolishing the social barriers that prevent PWDs from fully participating in society, we are hopeful that through laws and their proper implementation, our PWDs can gradually live a life away from insecurity and isolation.
We look forward to the passage into law by the 18th Congress of the amendments sought to be introduced by HB 9106.
From the The Manila Times website on June 13, 2019.