By Daniel Llanto

Apart from fake news, fake vitamins and medicines, even fake Facebook accounts, fake PWDs (persons with disabilities) also proliferated during the pandemic period.

Two members of the House of Representatives on June 22 called for an immediate government crackdown on fake PWDs who use the 20 percent discount provided by law for their own selfish purposes during the global pandemic.

Pseudo-PWDs reportedly use crutches or pretend to be blind or suffer from autism.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, chairman of the House committee on appropriations and Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong called on agencies like the Departments of Health and the Interior and Local Government and the National Council on Disability Affairs to prevent the proliferation of fake PWDs.

They urged the agencies to review the implementation of the law expanding the benefits and privileges of persons with disability or Republic Act 10754 and initiate a crackdown on impersonators.

Yap supported Ong’s call for the creation of a centralized electronic database of the legitimate PWDs and that a thorough vetting process must be conducted before anyone is issued a PWD card.

“The key is to develop an automated system. Through this, it will be easier to store and manage data. This system will contain all the PWD’s information, which will make it easier to verify whether an individual is indeed a PWD,” Yap said.

He added that all local government units must report to one centralized system to make the verification process easier.

Ong and Yap said much of the country’s business sector are barely surviving because of COVID and that the unauthorized use of PWD cards to get discounts is making life even harder for businesses.

Under the law, PWDs are given an automatic 20 percent direct discount and are VAT exempt on purchases of certain goods and services from all establishments for their exclusive use, among many other privileges.

Ong said it has become apparent that the discounts are being abused by people who faked disabilities to avail themselves of discounts and privileges, which is causing huge financial losses not only to many business establishments but to the government as well.

He added that the law has very little safeguard against impersonating a PWD and there is not even a uniform specification on the proof of entitlement, which makes it very easy for people to make fake PWD identification cards.

Yap and Ong noted that “many establishments have grown wary over those using PWD IDs because of fake cards, and so, a crackdown ending this proliferation will finally protect our real PWDs from discrimination brought about by fake PWDs.”

Yap claimed that the IDs for PWDs are sold at PHP1,000 to PHP3,000 per piece.

“This is a good law and it is just lamentable that some unscrupulous persons have taken advantage of and abused it for their own selfish purposes,” the former chairman of the House committee on games and amusement said.

The PWD VAT exemption law applies to restaurants; recreation centers such as theaters, movie houses and concert halls and lodging establishments such as inns, motorist hotels and dormitories.

The law covers the purchase of medicines and food for special medical purposes; medical and dental services, including laboratory fees and professional fees of attending doctors; domestic air, sea and land transportation travel and funeral and burial services.