One of our roles as a volunteer for Vso is to support the local deaf community of Cebu and their projects. Today, as a part of our In Country Orientation, we have to visit important places that volunteers must know about such as local schools, deaf charities and today, we visited the Police department.
We had our seminar at the regional 7 Police station. There are 157 police stations in Cebu and 7 main regional stations/camp. Officer "can't remember her name so we will just call her Sheila as she reminds me of a Sheila" is a community law enforcement officer and in charge of managing the community within region 7.
Officer Sheila began by explaining the current project - IPAD. Information and Police Access for the Deaf. There are 4 phrases and this project began in November 2012. IPAD focuses on deaf people and their communication access with the police. They plan to have a volunteer interpreter from a deaf charity for two hours a day at their front desk for deaf people to come and speak to the police via the interpreters their issues. First phrase is the launch and second phrase is to teach the police officers of regional 7 basic Filipino Sign Language. Fourth phrase would be introduction of IPAD to all 157 stations and teach all officers of Cebu basic FSL.
This all does sound great and all is well, it was not until we start asking questions, we could see the flaws of this service.
IPAD launched in 2012 and still on phrase one, what taking it so long? I am not expecting an overnight result but it had been nearly 2 years and they are still launching the service in Regional 7 - a small part of Cebu!
IPAD means that there are an interpreter sat at the desk for two hours per day. What if a deaf citizen need urgent attention, you cannot wait until certain time of a day to get attention. In case of 'emergency' whether the police officer deems it is an emergency, they will call the charity for them to organise an interpreter for the police. This takes a very long time, time that this deaf person may not have! The police officers cannot request their own interpreters because they are not funded to pay for interpreters themselves but ok to use up the charity's fund to get themselves am interpreter, eating up the charity's resources that could have been used to fund other projects for themselves. The police does not get any funds because they are independent under the government. This also means they are not involved politically.
I accept and appreciate that they cannot be political but at the end of the day, they are law enforcers, they are there first hand and can see for themselves what can work and what doesn't work.
However they said they cannot create new system or laws or anything to assist the deaf as they are 'non political and law enforcers - that is all'
What the police officers can do is gather information from the community and see where need improving and hand these information to the government. That is it. They cannot campaign for it or pressure the government. The government will read this proposition and decide whether to take it further or not. Most cases, it just a flick through until the word Deaf comes up then it's straight to the bin.
They can see that there are communication issues with deaf people and polices which is why they introduced the IPAD scheme after being inspired by the same charity that gives over interpreters.
This charity have their own campaign called Break the Silence. Their aim is to encourage all deaf minors and adults to speak out sexual abuse, educating through cartoons and visual aids. They educate minors at school to speak out if they experience any form of sexual abuse and assist this minor through policing and court and prosecute against the accused.
IPAD was inspired by their campaign and was made happen by the same police officers that literally had just said they cannot create any new schemes to help deaf people as it was not part of their jobs and they are just law enforcers.
They have obviously chosen to do something with communication issues which is relevant to the police work but refuses to support the community which is their job!
The Philippines law states that...
Disabled persons are part of Philippine society, thus the State shall give full support to the improvement of the total well-being of disabled persons and their integration into the mainstream of society. (Section 1a of Republic Act number 7277)
Disabled persons have the same rights as other people to take their proper place in society (Section 1b of Republic Act number 7277)
For your reference - http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/Philippines/RA%207277%20-%20Magna%20Carta%20of%20Disabled%20Persons.pdf
This the law. - the law made by the Philippines's government and the law that the police must follow and enforce.
Clearly the police are not doing their jobs properly. The society's attitude toward the deaf and the disabled people is still very poor in the Philippines and is clearly influencing the police and the government as neither of them are doing anything about it at all!
True story - a blind man with a guide dog went to a Mall in Cebu and was told to leave his dog outside, despite explaining that his dog is for blind people and helps him to navigate his way around. This man was denied entry and had to leave.
Now. Once explaining this story to Officer Sheila, explaining that this should have never happened and this was discrimination. Her reply was, that is not discrimination.
It was not discrimination.
It is not discrimination in Officer Sheila's eye as the guard was enforcing the Mall's rule of no animals inside the mall, no exceptions. Officer Sheila said that no law was broken and it was a very sad story.
Naturally this provoked all the UK volunteers including me. This is CLEARLY discrimination. Without any doubt! A blind man with aid of a guide dog to allow him 'integrate with the society' as the law states, refused entry because of the mall's policy.
Officer Sheila said that the malls have their own laws and is decided by the management. The police cannot do anything as no laws is broken, they are enforcing their own laws. Why the malls have their own laws and are exempt from the Philippines laws! This is wrong.
The word Discrimination is evidently not clear in the Philippines. It need educating.
On the facade of the main building of the region 7 police was a phrase, the police's motto -
...we serve and protect...
This a cruel irony that deaf and disabled people are clearly exempt from this very motto.
This HAD to change.