Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the controversial video making fun of the sign language

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the controversial video making fun of the sign language

The controversial video making fun of the sign language used by deaf people is utterly appalling and unacceptable especially that it involves a government official and a blogger affiliated to a government office. Such behavior is extremely degrading, derogatory, and further perpetuates discrimination of the vulnerable deaf people.

Sign language is a form of communication that enables deaf individuals to express themselves, their ideals, and aspirations. It is a fundamental human right of the deaf community and a key part of their higher right to self-determination. Making a mockery of this right is an attack on their dignity and makes them even more vulnerable in our society where only a few understand their mode of communication.

The government has the responsibility to ensure the learning of sign language and to promote the linguistic identity of the deaf community as stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Government officials should be the first in promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs), not the violator of their rights. It needs to be underscored that public officials must adhere to the highest standards of conduct especially when it comes to the vulnerable sectors of society. Section 4 of R.A. 6713 or Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees states that public officials and employees “shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged.”

We welcome the public apology the duo recently issued. However, for an apology to be genuine, it must be coupled with a full sense of accountability, concrete actions to rectify the wrong done, and future actions should manifest efforts to protect and promote the welfare and dignity of the PWDs.

In the interest of accountability, it must also be emphasized that the Magna Carta for PWDs specifically prohibits public ridicule or making mockery of PWDs for this could result in loss of self-esteem or could incite hatred or severe ridicule towards them. The penalty for such violation includes fine or imprisonment. We call on the National Council on Disability Affairs to make a firm stand on this matter as the agency tasked to ensure the implementation of laws that protect and promote the welfare of PWDs.

Our CHR-NCR office is already investigating the case as part of our mandate to protect the rights of the vulnerable sector, also in recognition of the complaint filed by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf. ■