Santiago committed to help PWDs
This is a response to the letter titled “Kids with Down Syndrome are models of humanity” (Inquirer, 7/25/12).
We thank the Inquirer for adding to the letter the editor’s note that Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had “apologized” to parents with children who are persons with disability (PWDs). Actually, Senator Santiago had sent a letter to parents who had earlier protested her statement in a public speech, addressing corrupt politicians: “Stop molesting me, you mongoloids!”
The senator, as a scholar of constitutional law, explained that the Constitution gives a “preferred position” to freedom of speech and to free press. This means that if there is a conflict between free speech and any attempt to censor speech, the courts will uphold free speech.
The law merely prohibits the ridiculing or the vilification of a PWD. This law is akin to the libel law, where libel is committed only if the victim is identified as a particular individual. Thus, Senator Santiago did not violate the law on PWDs.
Instead, the parents were overzealous and gave their own interpretation of the law without the benefit of legal advice. Their interpretation is tantamount to censorship, which is unconstitutional.
Senator Santiago closed her letter with the following statement: “However, as a parent myself, I understand that you are motivated by parental love and concern. Therefore, I extend the hand of friendship and will impose self-censorship by avoiding in (the) future any word that refers to a person with disability.”
Upon receipt of Senator Santiago’s letter—prominently featured in her Facebook account—Board Chair Tony Pasia, of the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Inc., replied very graciously by accepting the senator’s offer of friendship, and requested her help in advocating the plight of PWDs, which she will certainly do.
public affairs and
media relations officer,
Office of Sen. Miriam
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