“A very good news for Filipinos with disabilities!” Akbayan said of the latest development in the battle to realize the rights and welfare persons with disabilities (PWDs): Mercury Drug finally folded to the combined pressure of PWD groups and Akbayan Party and pledged to honor the 20% discount for PWDs’ purchases of medicine.
“Simula sa susunod na buwan, lahat ng mga kababayan nating may kapansanan ay makakakuha na ng 20% discount mula sa lahat ng outlets ng Mercury Drugstore,” Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said on Tuesday. “We commend the decision of Mercury Drug to finally comply with the law.”
Akbayan joined Rep. Arturo Robes, the Chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Social Services, and members of organizations of Filipinos with disabilities in announcing the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the committee and Mercury Drug to signify the latter’s intention to reform its business practices and fully comply with the Magna Carta for PWDs. Mercury Drug management was represented by Atty. Edsel Manuel in the MOA signing.
The strongly-worded agreement ordered Mercury Drug to set up the appropriate system that would facilitate the provision of 20% discount on all medicine and medical supplies purchased by persons with disabilities within a month’s time. And to make sure that Mercury Drug does not back track on this commitment, the MOA requires Mercury Drug to provide periodic reports to the committee regarding their compliance with the law.
According to Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, thorough consultation with the various members of the sector revealed that Mercury Drug Corporation was the “biggest violator of the discount on medicines for the consumption of PWDs” that RA 9442 or the amended Magna Carta for PWDs required.
It is because of this track record that Bello issued Mercury Drug a warning:
“While we are glad that Mercury Drug finally decided to join us in ensuring the rights and welfare of PWDs, I wish to make it clear with the company’s management that we, Akbayan, our friends in the sector and our allies in Congress, will be watching very closely, and we will not hesitate to take the appropriate legal or legislative action should there be any indication that Mercury intends to abandon the agreement,” Bello said.
Bello explained that this victory has proven that the combined forces of marginalized groups and their representatives in government result in breaking the “cycle of abuse and the hegemony of the big, powerful corporations.”
“Nanindigan ang Akbayan na hindi makatarungang pagkakitaan ng isang malaking kumpanya ang mga kababayang nating may kapansanan kaya nag-file tayo ng resolution para imbestigahan ang isyu,” Bello explained. “At dahil sa ating sama-samang pakikibaka, napagtagumpayan natin ang Mercury Drug at naipanalo natin ang laban para sa murang gamot para sa mga kababayan nating may kapansanan.”
Bello also acknowledged the vital role that Lower House Committee on Social Services Chairperson Arturo Robes played in the resolution of the issue.
“Chair Robes is a very important ally in securing this victory for PWDs, he is a true defender of the rights of the weak and the marginalized,” Bello said. “He understood the injustice Filipinos with disabilities were confronted with, and he prioritized investigations into this issue. It was also because of his leadership we were able to pursue the matter and effectively pressure Mercury Drug into compliance.”
In conclusion, Bello affirmed his party’s commitment to the PWD sector.
“This is only the beginning. As our friends in the sector would agree, there’s still a lot of work to be done to turn the Magna Carta of PWDs into reality,” Bello concluded. “This well-earned victory will serve as inspiration to us in Congress to continue to fight alongside Filipinos with disabilities for their rights and welfare. Lalo nating pagtitibayin ang ating ugnayan upang patuloy tayong makapanalo ng isyu ng ating mga kababayang may kapansanan.”
Akbayan filed House Resolution 221 in August 2010, calling for an investigation into different drug stores’ refusal to provide PWDs the discount mandated by law. Through the combined efforts of the Committee, Akbayan and the members of PWDs, a concession from Mercury Drug Corporation was achieved after only 3 committee hearings.###