Senator Leila M. de Lima has commended newly-crowned Miss World Philippines 2019 Michelle Dee for using the pageant platform to advocate for autism to increase public awareness and acceptance for persons affected with the developmental disorder.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said she hopes that Dee’s voice and social influence could help contribute in promoting a more inclusive society, especially for persons with autism.
“I am pleased that beauty queen Michelle Dee has embraced autism as her principal advocacy, which could greatly help spread information and understanding about the issue. Her beauty indeed has a purpose,” she said.
“With increased awareness and understanding, we hope that more people could reach out to persons with autism, make them feel that they are not different from us, and provide necessary support system to help them become productive members of the society,” she added.
Named Miss World Philippines 2019 last Sept. 15, Dee will be representing the Philippines in the Miss World 2019 pageant in London, United Kingdom.
Dee, who grew up with two siblings with autism, has been vocal about her goal to spread autism awareness. She recently bared her plan to donate a portion of her winnings to patients with autism “because I want to give them the proper care that they deserve” and “I know the lack of facilities” that could cater to their needs in the country.
The beauty queen recently went to Sagada, Mountain Province along with the Center for Possibilities, Inc., to visit a school that caters to children with special needs.
Considering the challenges that persons with autism were born with, De Lima maintained that “they need support both from the state and the community to ensure that their needs are not set aside and that they live their lives free from any judgment.”
De Lima, whose son and grandson were both diagnosed with autism disorder, said she hopes Dee could also lend her support for her Senate Bill (SB) No. 855 which seeks to establish institutional and social mechanisms to support persons with development disabilities, such as autism, and their families.
“To address the needs of persons with special needs, like those with autism, a comprehensive legislative framework and integrated operational plan are necessary,” she said.
“It is also my hope that Dee’s advocacy on autism awareness would encourage my colleagues to support my measure and help ensure its successful and immediate passage into law,” she added.
Filed this 18th Congress, SB No. 855 or “Integrating Persons with Autism and other Development Disabilities Act” pushes to create an inter-agency and multi-sectoral agency that would develop and implement a National Development Disability Program.
The agency, to be called Development Disability Council of the Philippines, is tasked to promote awareness, education and information about issues on development disabilities and set up network of support groups for their families.
It is also mandated to produce a databank and information and monitoring system (IMS) on the demographic, socio-economic and incidence, type and prevalence of persons with development disabilities in the country.
De Lima’s measure also seeks a mechanism to protect persons with development disabilities from discrimination in schools as well as the establishment of capacity-based training, employment, and livelihood programs for persons with developmental disabilities.