The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) recently conducted a “Disability Awareness and Sensitivity Workshop on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities” for prosecutors and Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) lawyers in Region XI. DOJ Undersecretary Leah T. Armamento and NCDA Acting Executive Director Carmen R. Zubiaga spearheaded the workshop which was held at Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.

In her message during the Workshop’s opening ceremony, Undersecretary Armamento expressed support to provide persons with disabilities access to justice and told the participants that the workshop was an offshoot of DOJ’s chairmanship of the 2013 National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week and a project of the NCDA Sub-Committee on Access to Justice and Anti-Discrimination chaired by DOJ Assistant Chief State Counsel Ruben F. Fondevilla. Usec. Armamento also highlighted DOJ’s preparation and launching of the “Sensitivity Training Manual for Prosecutors and Public Attorneys” to the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and PAO.

NCDA Acting Executive Director Zubiaga in addition, discussed “Disability Perspective: Understanding the Dynamics of Persons with Disabilities, ” wherein she gave an overview on disability classification, general principles of disability inclusive development based on the “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” or UNCRPD and how it relates to access to justice. Director Zubiaga also highlighted the provisions of Proclamation No. 688 “Declaring the Period of 2013-2022 as the Philippine Decade of “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in support of the 3rd Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities”.

The pool of speakers was led by Prof. Rowena Daroy-Morales, Director of the Office of Legal Aid, University of the Philippines wherein she gave an in-depth distinction between impairment and disability and discussed disability laws and other policies, the UNCRPD, equality, non-discrimination and the rights-based approach in dealing with persons with disabilities. She stressed that the UNCRPD promises respect on the rights of persons with disabilities. She also made mention of the equal rights and privileges of persons with disabilities in terms of employment, education, telecommunications, political and civil rights.

The two-day workshop was also highlighted with discussion of issues and concerns of specific disability groups in accessing justice, to wit: (a) Ms. Fede Lebai Mathews, President of Autism Intervention Center Foundation, Inc.; (b) Mr. Joseph Grecia and Ms. Marife Guimte, President and Member, respectively, of the Davao Regional Association of the Deaf, Inc., Mr. Welmo Capoy, Principal of the Davao School and Rehabilitation Center for the Visually Impaired and Mr. Naprey Almario, Member of Association of Differently-Abled Persons.

The participants were likewise sensitized on handling cases involving persons with different disabilities through a workshop and passed a Pledge of Commitment and a Resolution recommending to DOJ program development relating to access to justice.

A similar sensitivity workshop for prosecutors and PAO lawyers from the Central Luzon is slated this December 2014 in Subic, Zambales.

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