One of the many rights granted to Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the Philippines is the right to hold a PWD ID. Thanks to Republic Act No. 10754, PWDs who hold a PWD ID are thus granted a 20% discount on basic necessities and other commodities such as cinemas (Luna, 2020). While this is very ideal for many PWDs who may not be able to afford these necessities for themselves, it also creates opportunities for many non-PWD individuals to take advantage of the discount. They do this in two ways, mainly through black markets and by faking the disability upfront during the screening process. Black markets that sell fake PWD IDs have increasingly become common; as discovered after another shop’s demise due to the entrapment operation by the Manila Police District Special Mayor Reaction Team, fake PWD IDs could be sold for up to PHP 1,500. Many of these IDs are sold online (GMA Integrated News, 2023).

The rise in distribution and consequent use of fake PWD IDs has led to an impending plan for a national crackdown on the establishments that distribute them. But as Racquel Nicdao, a member of the PWD advocacy page, PWDe, pointed out, the issue is systemic, largely due to a number of factors (Luna, 2019).

“It is not the fault of real and authentic PWDs that some LGU representatives or employees are [not] checking the validity of the requirements needed to claim for a PWD ID,” Nicdao stated in an interview with PhilStar. “The poor [financially challenged] PWDs who need help should not be blamed for inefficiency in the system.” She continued to argue that the system is yet to be efficient in a way that works for PWDs; in other words, the system only serves to aggravate related issues such as the issuance of fake PWD IDs. The president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines, Emer Rojas, furthered the argument that the biggest conflict lies in the implementation of the relevant statutes, rules, and regulations (IRR) relating to PWDs. This translates to an absence of standardized procedures, most especially when it comes to validating PWD IDs, which is oftentimes a neglected practice in both public and private institutions (Luna, 2019).

One of our correspondents and a member of the PWD community, who shall be referred to as Ayn throughout this article, explained that this has led to certain issues whenever they would present their PWD IDs.

“Whenever I would order food online, for example, they’d always tell me to present my PWD ID, which is reasonable of course. But somehow, I never get to present it because I’m always told after that it’s not needed,” they said. “I mean, to me, it’s good because I’d put in less effort into preparing what I need to give to the driver. But sometimes, I’d think about what happens if the person registered a fake PWD ID into the system. Maybe it’s because I’m not aware of how fast food chains are able to pick up on what constitutes a ‘valid’ PWD ID. And well, the point of a fake ID is to make it look as if it’s supposed to pass as a real one, right? You wouldn’t ask for the PWD ID in onsite establishments if not to validate it. Why shouldn’t it be the same in online shopping and delivery?”

Ayn’s validity of their ID has also been questioned outside of online deliveries.

“It’s probably because of the layout of the IDs? I don’t know,” Ayn remarked. “Because apparently, the PWD ID of one city looks vastly different from that of the other. Many times, I’ve been asked by cashiers if this is really a PWD ID. I also live in a city that not many people know of, and so the layout of my PWD ID would be a surprise for some. Because of that difference in layouts, however, it would mean that it’s easy to fake an ID. I mean, you can say that you came from a lesser known city and then present an ID that looks completely different from the ID issued by the city you mentioned. As long as it looks believable, people will accept it. You know who will bear the brunt of the consequence, though? People who have legit PWD IDs. Small businesses, too. I went to this food store last night and they were only using a calculator to calculate everything. How would they know that the PWD ID they’re being shown is fake?”

This issue especially impacts those whose disabilities are not visible. And though Ayn has not yet experienced having their invisible disability subjected to scrutiny whenever they have their PWD ID validated, they also acknowledge that it happens. A report on the QC government’s efforts to crack down on black markets selling PWD IDs has led some PWD netizens to voice their opinions regarding this. Jeric Rustia on X (formerly Twitter) posted back in 2020 that issues such as the issuance of fake IDs have led him to opt not to get a PWD ID. Aside from the indiscriminate scrutiny many PWDs get when it comes to validating their IDs, he is also afraid of people thinking that he is scamming people when he was diagnosed to have three mental health conditions. The surge of fake IDs and the consequent lack of trust in those who are ID holders have instead resulted in the discrimination of actual PWD individuals, especially those who live with invisible disabilities (Luna, 2020). This would bar PWD individuals, who need the discounts to afford their necessities, from ever accessing them.

“I get that life is hard,” Ayn commented on that point. “I grew up poor all my life. I’m still poor. So I know how hard it is to get money. I’m not faulting everyone who is trying to get fake PWD IDs. Our poverty is a huge symptom of a larger, systemic issue that equally oppresses the working class and those below them. So usually, I’d look the other way if someone claims that they’re using a fake PWD ID. At the same time, medicines for disabled people are really expensive. Living as a disabled person is like an automatic sentence to poverty. Like my dad, for example. We were poor before. But then we became poorer when my dad got disabled. We earn so little already but somehow, it feels less now because everything now goes to buying my dad’s medicines. His PWD ID did help with the weekly cost, but sometimes it’s not enough.”

But Ayn then concluded their point with, “All I’m asking for is to not look at the issue of fake PWD IDs as the be-all and end-all issue, like it isn’t entangled in a web that supports a system which does not favor the poor and oppressed. If you want to punish someone, punish the people who are using their fake PWD IDs for malicious intents. Punish the ones who are profiting off of the sales of fake PWD IDs. But do not punish the people who need something for them to get through the day. I think, beyond these things, the government as a whole needs to address poverty in productive means. Medicines are inaccessible, right? Make them accessible to those who are poor, then. Make basic necessities accessible. The issue is systemic, after all. We cannot eradicate the surge of fake PWD IDs if we don’t address the root causes which have pushed those who are not disabled to pursue them.”

“At the same time, there is a reason why we need PWD IDs. It’s because living life as a disabled person is expensive. You are subjected to financial and social barriers which make it hard for you to get through the day. We need those barriers to be let down for us. And to many of us, the PWD ID is one of the few, if not only, ways for us to access necessities that can save our lives. Sure, it’s also a systemic issue that needs to be addressed separately. But right now, it is all we have received after years of disability activists fighting for rights such as access to what we need.”

Ateneo SPEED would like to thank Ayn for their time and insights lent to this article.

The views and opinions of the writers and editors do not necessarily reflect or state those of the publication’s nor the organization’s.

References:

Bautista, E. (2017, June 29). People using fake PWD IDs arrested. City Government of Valenzuela. https://valenzuela.gov.ph/article/news/11498

Fake PWD IDs being sold in Manila; 2 suspects arrested. (2023, June 23). GMA Integrated News. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/metro/873776/fake-pwd-ids-being-sold-in-manila-2-suspects-arrested/story/?amp

Luna, F. (2020, June 24). QC government: No forms, records for family PWD cards in viral photo. Philstar.com https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/06/24/2023208/qc-government-no-forms-records-family-pwd-cards-viral-photo/amp/

Luna, F. (2019, October 25). Groups say House reps’ slamming of PWD card abuse exposes holes in disability legislation. Here’s how. Philstar.com. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/10/25/1963289/groups-say-house-reps-slamming-pwd-card-abuse-exposes-holes-disability-legislation-heres-how/amp/