OpinionHear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil
Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil
October 29, 2018
October 29, 2018

Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux ‘Mocha’ Uson created an uproar with fellow blogger Andrew ‘Drew’ Olivar through a controversial ‘sign language’ video last September 14. The viral video reportedly had Uson filming from behind the camera as Olivar symbolized their “Pepederalismo for the deaf” while making vigorous “sign language” gestures. None of the flailing hand movements were actual words, consequently offending the members and allies of the community that places great value on the sign language medium, the Persons with Disabilities
(PWD) community.

The pair of bloggers now face a complaint filed against them by Philippine Federation of the Deaf president Carolyn Dagani, at the Office of Ombudsman for charges for violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the Cybercrime Prevention Act, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

With prominent individuals and leaders in our country such as Uson poking fun at the deaf, it brings us to think, do our countrymen or our institutions resonate such insensitivity toward PWDs?

Insensitivity is manifested not only in misbehavior but in passiveness. One such instance is evident in the last general update of the nation’s demographics through a census from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in 2015. It was reported that the said survey failed to take into account the update on the population of PWDs in the country. This eventually caused backlash and led the PSA to “promise” an update for such in the following year, but was never done. With this, there is an underlying issue that is yet to be addressed. It is that the needs and concerns of the PWD community are being acknowledged, but little has been done to more forward from that—apart from making unkept promises.

Inside our campus, efforts do not seem to be in full swing yet. Earlier in October, in a Legislative Assembly session of the DLSU University Student Government, an agendum was raised in order to address the scandal from Uson and Olivar through an open letter, but was later laid on the table. For something urgent and known to the studentry, the legal body chose to postpone the release of their statement as the legislators failed to decide on the content of the said letter. The resolution was later finalized and passed in a subsequent session, but was criticized by other representatives in the assembly, citing that it needed a “stronger stand.”

It is troubling to note that this mentality starts in the most basic units of our community wherein the lack of regard toward disability is often manifested unconsciously. In conversations within our immediate groups, the slightest falter in a person’s hearing would result to a bingi ka ba?” comment; the inability to look for a misplaced item warrants an ano ka, bulag? retort. One need not look further than the household to hear such expressions. To imply that a person is lesser due to “inability” is not at an
uncommon practice.

Adding up to this, the image, with which the community has been made to look like by past or current ages of Philippine media alone indicates a deeply ingrained culture of thoughtlessness toward differently-abled citizens. Using PWDs as the marginalized and inferior characters in the popular “slapstick” humor, it seems that the mindset is not completely lost to a portion of the population that these people are comedic figures and nothing more.

On the upside, there are official laws such as the Magna Carta for PWDs from 1992, requiring for sensitivity and respect towards the members of this community. Another law is the Republic Act 10754 that was officially implemented during March 2016, giving the PWD population in the Philippines the privilege of a five percent discount in basic necessities and 20 percent discount and an exemption from Value-Added Tax (VAT) on food and services commodities. However, a cap of P1,300 was enforced on the maximum expenditures allowed to avail of the discount on basic needs.

Despite official legislation, laying out rules and regulations can only do so much if we ourselves do not practice sensitivity or push for our countrymen to acknowledge and show regard toward our PWD community.

Uson and Olivar have since stated their apologies, only to have such rejected by the offended parties involved. Backed up with the support of majority in the PWD and non-PWD community, Dagani and the rest remain firm with their request that Uson either resign or be put out of position. Uson later announced her resignation during a senate hearing last October.

Following the example of Dagani, perhaps it is in right time that the Philippine nation stands firm and intolerant against the discrimination and persecution of the PWD community. To build a nation grounded on equality and security entails practicing basic respect and being open-minded. It is important that the respect and consideration that we aim to give to fellow Filipinos, disabled or not, should start from the mere improvement of our own mindset.

Even though laws are implemented, they merely just provide a foundation for citizens to practice proper behavior and attitude toward these PWDs. While it is a step forward for some institutions to acknowledge the shortcomings to the PWD community, its members and supporters should not have to settle with mere “attempts” at showing respect and subpar efforts at establishing inclusivity within the country. Respect, inclusivity, and sensitivity toward the PWD community shall and only start from the basic units of the country itself—it shall come from its people. After all, the development of one’s character cannot be dictated by laws, but by oneself.