Manila: The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has voiced its concern over an incident involving an airline passenger who complained of discrimination after she was asked to disembark from the aircraft because she has a "special child" with her.
In a statement, Leila De Lima, Chairperson of the CHR said the commission was "deeply concerned and dismayed" over the reported incident wherein a passenger and her son who has Global Development Delay condition was asked to get off the aircraft.
"Special children require special attention and protection, " De Lima said. "And by special attention, we do not mean attention that discriminates unfavourably against the child. If attention does not serve to accommodate and facilitate equal enjoyment of the same rights and privileges that other persons enjoy, then it is clearly prohibited."
According to De Lima, airlines are mandated to assist and accommodate passengers, especially those with disabilities.
On December 23, Mylene Alcantara and her son John Arvin was asked to disembark from a Cebu Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Manila. They were asked off the flight because there was another passenger with disability on the same schedule.
Cebu Pacific had reasoned that they had to ask the Alcantaras to get off the aircraft because it was the carrier's policy that no two passengers with disabilities can be on the same schedule.
John Arvin has Global Development Delay, a condition that occurs during a child's development period that affects his or her communication and intellectual skills, among others.
Although Alcantara and her son where eventually allowed to continue on the flight, the incident inconvenienced other passengers because it caused a one hour delay in the schedule.
Alcantara has threatened to file a discrimination case against Cebu Pacific.
According to De Lima, Philippine law provides clear parameters to prevent discrimination against special children and the disable, in general.
"Transport providers, specifically, are identified by statute to ensure that the Disabled are not discriminated against."
The statute De Lima referred to is the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (R.A. 7277).
"Whether or not there is in fact a Cebu Pacific policy against freely accommodating the Disabled has yet to be seen. All things told, however, I cannot imagine how such a policy can be worded without violating the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons."
"I am particularly concerned over this alleged policy because I am a mother of a special child," De Lima remarked.
"There are no words to describe how important it is to parents, such as Ms. Alcantara, that their children be treated with the same regard as other children, despite their disability."