Press Release
October 20, 2019

De Lima elated over increased public awareness on people with special needs

Senator Leila M. de Lima is pleased that more people are now stepping forward to raise awareness of developmental disabilities, including autism and Down Syndrome, to increase understanding for and avoid any prejudice against people with special needs.

De Lima cited the efforts of artist Maribel Magpoc whom the Senator lauded for recently creating "inspiring and moving" artworks that are making waves online for positively portraying people with Down Syndrome living a normal life.

"I am thrilled that more people are now using their talents and influence to spread positive messages about people with special needs and are reminding the world that individuals with developmental disabilities are not different from us," she said.

"Upon seeing the photos of the artworks of Maribel, as printed by my Senate staff, I could not help but think how she wonderfully portrayed persons with disabilities in such a positive light. Her works are truly inspiring and moving," she added.

The photos showing the painting of Magpoc portraying people with Down Syndrome living a normal life recently went viral, prompting netizens to share snaps of her works online while expressing their admiration for her talent and advocacy.

In creating inspiring paintings, Magpoc, a fulltime artist, reportedly said she took inspiration from the daily experience of her sister named Mariel, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Magpoc said she hopes to raise awareness about people living with Down Syndrome through her artworks, sharing, "Gusto kong ipakita sa mga works ko na 'yung disability niya [Mariel] is not an obstacle for her to be part of and live in a normal life in this society."

De Lima, both a parent and a grandparent to children born with autism, said she hopes the government could work on strengthening its support for persons with developmental disabilities and their families.

"Living a safe life free from any form of discrimination is only one among the many challenges faced by persons with developmental disabilities and their families. That is why the government should exert more effort to improve their plight," she said.

"I am calling on my colleagues anew to support my measure Senate Bill (SB) No. 855, or 'Integrating Persons with Autism and other Development Disabilities Act,' seeking to establish institutional and social mechanisms to support persons with development disabilities and their families," she added.

De Lima explained that developmental disability refers to a disability that usually manifest during infancy or childhood and is marked by delayed developmental or functional limitations. These include autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, and spina bifida, among others.

Under SB. No. 855, an inter-agency and multi-sectoral agency shall be created to develop and implement a National Development Disability Program tasked to promote awareness, education and information about issues on development disabilities and set up network of support groups for their families.

The measure also seeks a mandatory Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) coverage for developmental disabilities to ease the burden of thousands of families struggling with the costs for its detection and treatment.

Among those who are using their talent and influence to help raise awareness about developmental disabilities include Filipino-Swiss Samantha Kaspar, an artist diagnosed with autism, and Miss World Philippines 2019 Michelle Dee, who grew up with two siblings with autism.

Kaspar raises awareness on autism and people with special needs through her remarkable artworks while Dee uses the pageant platform to help contribute in promoting a more inclusive society, especially for persons with autism.

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