Cebu Pacific employees attempted to bump off special child

Posted by Admin | Posted in Offenses (Special Penal Laws), Transportation Law | Posted on 19-01-2010

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Historically, airline bumping off is caused by overbooking.  But the case of Marites Alcantara and her son Arvin is different. The misfortune happened last December 23, 2009. The two were on board a Cebu Pacific plane bound for Manila from Hongkong, desiring to be home for the holidays. According to Mrs. Alcantara, the purser and cabin crew of the airline forced them to get off the plane because her son was “mentally ill”.

The employees pointed to a Company Manual which according to them does not allow persons who are mentally ill to board the aircraft.  Arvin, was suffering from Global Developmental Delay – a condition where a child’s acquisition of motor skills is not as quickly as expected.  Mrs. Alcantara adamantly explained that Arvin is not mentally ill; so they refused to get off the plane. The poor boy cried while they were being humiliated in the eyes of other passengers. Although they arrived safely in Manila on board the same plane, Mrs. Alcantara lost no time in seeking the advice of counsel for possible civil and criminal charges.

Possible violations

(1) Child Discrimination under RA 7610, as amended

This law emphasizes the policy of the state to protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, discrimination and other conditions prejudicial to their development (Sec. 2).  The act of the airline employees in humiliating the child and his mother caused emotional and psychological trauma upon him. Children, even without a law enjoining it, must be treated with special care, more so if they suffer from special conditions. A child, who has Global Developmental Delay, from the name itself, suffers from a delayed development of some skills which most children of his age have already acquired. In Arvin’s case, according to his mom, he had problems with his motor skills. But this does not outright qualify him as “mentally ill”. Obviously, the airline purser and crew did not really know what a mentally ill person is. They probably thought that Arvin was like some psychotic or neurotic, which is totally unfair. They should have listened to the explanation of the mother.

(2) Discrimination of a Disabled Person under RA 7277

A disabled person is one who is suffering from restriction or different abilities, as a result of a mental, physical or sensory impairment, to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being. (Sec 4a)

Impairment is any loss, diminution or aberration of psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function. (Sec 4b)

The law mandates the provision of auxiliary aids and services for the benefit of disabled persons. Instead of providing aid or support services, the airline caused them inconvenience.

Under Sec 34 of the same law, it shall be considered discrimination for the franchisees or operators and personnel of sea, land, and air transportation facilities to refuse to convey a passenger, his orthopedic devices, personal effects, and merchandise by reason of his disability. The airline employees blatantly violated this provision.

Caution

Under Sec. 46 of RA 7277, any person who violates any provision of this Act shall suffer the following penalties:

(1)    for the first violation – P50,000-P100,000 fine or six (6) months up to two (2) years of imprisonment, or both at the discretion of the court; and

(2)    for any subsequent violation – P100,000- P200,000 or two to six years imprisonment, or both at the discretion of the court.

And note that if the violator is a corporation, organization or any similar entity, the officials directly involved shall be liable.

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