HERE is a letter signed by one Immanuel Balingit, who identified himself as president of Call Center Philippines, a community organization on a social networking site. Mr. Balingit, together with Alvin Felipe D. Gutiano and Karly Anthony Marquez, his co-founders of the group, emailed me their letter on June 26. I failed to immediately respond to their request for help in ventilating the sad plight of their co-workers who, being persons with physical disabilities (PWD), have “to struggle to make it in and out of work in very challenging ways daily.” The contents of their letter are self-explanatory.
HON. CARMEN REYES-ZUBIAGA
National Council on
Dear Ms. Zubiaga,
We are a group of concerned call center agents from Call Center Philippines (CCP), a social-media based organization made up of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) individuals working for the welfare and interest of the BPO workers all over the country.
We are writing your good office to bring to your attention the sad plight of our fellow call center agents who are person/s with disabilities (PWD).
Unbeknownst to many Filipinos, many PWD’s have found gainful employment in the BPO industry. For instance, Antonio Baradi, a PWD, has worked for 10 years in a BPO company. Through hard work and determination, he now serves as an Operations Manager in the same company and continues to be a good provider for his family.
For Antonio, his status as a PWD mattered much less than his capacity, talent and skill as a BPO employee. The industry opened its doors for him, and now his story continues to inspire other PWDs seeking stable, rewarding and fulfilling employment. Unfortunately, for Antonio and fellow PWDs, going to and from BPO centers is a big struggle since the infrastructure to make their trip easier are not there. Going to the office and returning home safely is a big obstacle course for PWDs working in BPOs that fuel the Philippine economy.
We respectfully ask your help to coordinate with local government units in areas with a high concentration of BPO offices to push for the full implementation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 344 (An Act to Enhance the Mobility of Disabled Persons by Requiring Certain Buildings, Institutions, Establishments and Public Utilities to install Facilities and Other Devices) and other pertinent laws.
We beseech you to coordinate with government officials in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Bacolod, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Clark, Dagupan, Davao, Tacloban, Dumaguete, Lipa, Iloilo, Naga, Iriga, Iligan, Olongapo, Urdaneta and other places dotted with BPO centers for them to establish a PWD-friendly environment in their areas of jurisdiction.
Measures like having unobstructed sidewalks, railings, wheelchair-accessible entrances, 1.2-meter wide ramps; and PWD exits and bathrooms will go a long way in helping improve work and mobility for PWDs working in call centers around the country.
BPO companies should also be made aware of the provisions of the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (Republic Act 7277). With many businesses benefiting from the economic boost of the BPO industry in these cities, commercial establishments should also adhere to the discounts and priority access mandated by the law for PWDs.
We are aware that the work of the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) has been pivotal in improving the lives of Filipinos with disabilities. This is why we believe that the influence and presence of the NCDA in these “BPO hotspots” can empower many more PWDs in their pursuit of a good life.
We are counting on your help because we know that President Aquino has in his Cabinet an official who helped build the BPO industry — Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. We know Secretary Roxas will not turn his back on the 1.3 million BPO agents, more so the PWDs among us.
With 1.4 million Filipinos living with disability, the BPO industry can offer so much for those who are willing to persevere. As the industry continues to grow exponentially – with the country expected to rake in $25 billion in 2016 – more and more PWDs will now look to call centers for an opportunity to work for standard salaries that are often deprived of them.
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While the above letter is addressed only to Ms. Zubiaga, it should also serve as a wake-up call for local government officials who justify their lack of concern for PWDs by citing budgetary shortage. This is not a reason to deprive PWDs their right to better access of public transportation, for instance, by strictly implementing the law allocating specific seats for PWDs, senior citizens and pregnant women.
One time, I took Golden Bee Transport bus on my way to a province in the north. The conductor pointed me to a seat just behind the driver. I was told said seat and the other one just across it were reserved for PWDs, senior citizens and pregnant women. I thought then that there are still bus companies such as Golden Bee and probably its sister firm Baliwag Transit which strictly enforce the rule. How about other bus companies?
If government officials from time to time would only go out of their air-conditioned offices, they would surely learn how difficult commuting by public transport is for PWDs, senior citizens and pregnant women, who could not afford to pay for taxi rides. Do these officials, particularly the elected politicians among them, care at all? Perhaps they need PWDs, senior citizens and pregnant women only for their votes. Come 2016, expect them to clutter the pigeon holes of newspapers, televisions and radio stations with their press releases praising PWDs and us for our contributions to the economy. In the meantime, they enjoy the benefits of spending other people’s money.