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Giving Free Spectacles Without Proper Eye Examination during Election Campaign

Editors note: This This was addressed to the Chairman of the Commission on Elections, Hon. Sheriff M. Abas, last November 22, 2021

The Professional ODs Society, Inc. (PODs) is a national organization of optometrists. Our various advocacies revolve around one goal: protecting and enhancing the vision health of Filipinos.

It is with this singular motivation that we are expressing our deep concern over the widespread practice of candidates giving free eyeglasses as part of their election campaign without conducting the proper eye examination and oftentimes without the involvement of licensed vision care professionalis. This practice endangers the vision health of those who receive thiese free eyeglasses, and is especially pernicious when the recipients are senior citizens, as dispensing eyeglasses without the proper examination may exacerbate existing vision impairment. It may also lead to serious diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and other debilitating conditions going undetected or obscured. A proper eye examination by a qualified vision care professional can reveal such conditions. As stated by the World Council of Optometry:

Early detecting of disease and abnormalities that can only be detected through a comprehensive eye examination that includes an ocular assessment is essential for public health as late detection increases the likelihood that irreversible damage will have occurred.

The Sight Test: Refraction and Examinations of the Eye for the Purpose of Detecting Injury, Disease or Abnormality: The Public Health Case

Vision defects and abnormalities are prevalent in the Philippines and pose a major national health issue. The 2019 Philippine National Blindess Survey and Eye Disease Study conducted by the Philippine Eye Research Institute of the National Institute for Health found that vision impairement and blindness rank among the major health concerns in the Philippines, with a current prevalance rate of 1.98% which corresponds to about 1.11 million Filipinos with cataract, 400,000 with uncorrected error of refraction, almost 300,000 with glaucoma, and 200,000 with maculopathy.

The Philippines ranks second only to India with the most incidence of blindness globally. And it is estimated that there are about 4 million Filipinos whose vision problems are undiagnosed. The absence of both proper eye examination and the involvement of trained and licensed eyecare professionals during the giving of free eyeglasses during election campaigns only exacerbates an already dire situation. It is quite regrettable that politicians, in the guise of addressing an acute public health need, are exploiting this situation for their own myopic ends, and to the great determinant of the public.

Please note that The Revised Optometry Law of 1995 (RA 8050) prohibits and criminalizes the examination and dispensing of eyeglasses by unqualified persons (sections 2(a),4, 5, and 32(g)). We also note that under Sec. 35 of Comelec Resolution No. 10730 promulgated on November 17, 2021, it is unlawful for any candidate, party or any person to “give or accept, free of charge, directly or indirectly, transporation, food and drinks, or anything of value during and within the five (5) hours before and after a public meeting, or to give or contribute, directly or indirectly, money or things of value for such purpose.”

As the constitutionally mandated body overseeing the conduct of elections, we believe it is within your powers to curtail such deleterious election practicies, which not only undermines this very important exercise of our countrymen’s right to self-determination but actually imperils their vision health.

We trust that you would take appropriate action to address this situation.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Thank you.


Jehan Echavez, OD

Comelec Memorandum: