Cebu News

PWD IDs for sale?

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman
PWD IDs for sale?
Screengrab shows the six PWD cards a family was able to get for each member.

CEBU, Philippines — The Cebu City Council yesterday urged Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia to investigate reports on the selling of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) identification cards being issued by the City’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS).

It also called to an executive session certain City Hall personnel and offices to help shed light on the matter.

This came following a privilege speech by City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, who disclosed the alleged abuse of “one of the most valuable” social services in the city.

He said that he was prompted to deliver a privilege speech after he learned that PWD cards issued by the city are being sold to and used by persons who are without any physical or mental disability for P2,000 to P4,000.

“This card allows them to avail themselves of discounts from restaurants, parking, and even plane tickets, which are meant exclusively for our disabled constituents,” Cuenco said.

This, he said, constitutes a “gross misuse” of a system designed to supposedly provide benefits to those among the most vulnerable citizens of the city.

“The staff adamantly denied such reports, and reassured us that they are practicing a stringent application process,” Cuenco recalled after his office checked with DSWS.

He said he was told that the process of getting the ID is supposedly stringent, with applicants being asked to submit, among others, a medical certificate from a licensed physician as proof of disability and a barangay certificate on indigency.

Applicants, Cuenco said, are also required to submit full body photos to document these disabilities, and that they must be interviewed in person if they are able to physically visit DSWS.

“If these rigorous procedures are in place, how is it that unauthorized PWD cards are still being produced and distributed?” Cuenco said during his speech.

He said their investigation led to his office being able to interview an “able-bodied individual” who has obtained a PWD card.

The person allegedly said that the scheme has been going in since August 2023 and that certain individuals connected with the Office of the Mayor were involved in it.

Cuenco said the PWD cards were given to certain people who neither submitted any required documents or underwent the application review process.

“According to our source, these cards are even given gratis to high-profile public officials, like city mayors and celebrities outside of Cebu city, because they (PWD cards) are honored throughout the whole country. It appears…that these individuals have access to the printing of these cards directly, and have enough authority to override DSWS,” the councilor said.

Cuenco said that the DSWS did not have the avenue to monitor these “clients” since they do not avail of the PWD financial assistance and just use the card for discounts.

“This revelation is a significant breach of trust and accountability within our system. This is beyond fixing! It is falsification of public documents, plain and simple! It is almost insulting that despite the rigorous processes our constituent PWDs go through in DSWS, individuals within the Cebu City Government are giving it away like shopping rewards cards,” he said.

Cuenco said that aside from this being “unfair” to the PWDs, it also hurts the economic establishments as a whole because their incomes are negatively affected due to the multiple discounts being availed.

He said this also leads to decreased business taxes collected by the city.

“I urge that we act promptly to investigate the individuals involved in this fraudulent scheme, ensure they receive appropriate punishment for their crimes, and restore public trust. We must also put in place measures to review and strengthen our PWD assistance program and audit our PWD masterlist,” he said.

He likewise suggested that the city must update the system so that details of the cards are no longer typewritten and that advanced technology to verify authenticity should instead be used.

Acting on Cuenco’s privilege speech, the City Council also called DSWS to a June 6 executive session for it to apprise the legislative body on the application process, the safety measures in place to ensure the authenticity of PWD IDs, and its procedures in auditing the PWD masterlist.

The City Council also requested the City’s Management Information and Computer Services (MICS) to join the executive session and propose an information technology infrastructure that would eradicate the problem and improve the PWD ID application process, particularly by setting up an authentication system for new PWD IDs.

The council also invited former “Cerj Germudo”, “John Tolentino” and “Jay-R Cam”, all from the office of the mayor, and “JJ Laurel”, formerly from the DSWS and now assigned to the Cebu City Transportation Office, “to shed light on the scheme”. —/RHM (FREEMAN)

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