Cebu Pacific hit for refusing 'special child' passenger

By Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 07 2010 12:01 PM | Updated as of Jan 09 2010 12:12 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Budget airline Cebu Pacific may face civil and criminal cases after reportedly refusing the entry on board of a special child.

According to Marites Alcantara, the Gokongwei-led carrier's purser and cabin crew pressured her and her son, John Arvin, to get off the plane bound for Manila from Hong Kong.

Alcantara said the crew members flatly told her that John Arvin is a special child and is banned from boarding Cebu Pacific planes, citing company rules.

"They have a manual daw. Bawal daw sumakay ang mga mentally ill...pilit nila kaming pinapababa na para kaming kriminal na kulang na lang ay hatakin palabas ng eroplano 'yong anak ko," she told ABS-CBN News.

("They said they have a company manual, which states that mentally ill people are not allowed inside the plane...they pressured us to get out of the plane as if we were criminals.")

John Arvin was diagnosed with Global Development Delay, a condition that delays a child's ability to acquire motor skills as fast as normal kids. Alcantara said she was insulted when the crew kept on calling her son "mentally ill" as they forced them to step out of the plane.

Most of all, she said her son was humiliated because of the incident.

"Kahit sinong psychiatrist ang tanungin mo, walang mali sa anak ko. Hindi siya considered mentally ill...lumuluha na lang siya when they humiliated us. Ang sakit-sakit na nanay ka tapos pinoprotektahan mo anak mo, pero may gumaganyan sa kanya," Alcantara said.

("You can ask any psychiatrist and they would all say that nothing is wrong with my child. He is not considered mentally ill. He was crying when they humiliated us. It really hurts for a mom when people treat her child like that.")

Since Alcantara refused to leave the plane, Cebu Pacific's crew had no choice but to proceed with the flight. She urged the budget airline to take a second look at its policies and admit that these are discriminatory.

"Bawal ang ginawa nila according to Republic Act 7610. Protected di lamang ang special children kundi children mismo sa batas na iyon," said Atty. Salvador Panelo, Alcantara's lawyer.

("What they did was not allowed, according to Republic Act 7610. That law not only protects special children, but all kids as well.")

Cebu Pacific, meanwhile, has refused to grant an interview. Instead, the Gokongwei-led airline issued a statement of apology to the "affected passengers," saying that it is now finding ways to make sure that such an incident will not happen again.

"We deeply regret the incident, and we are looking at ways to make sure that this will not happen again in the future. We had apologized to the affected passengers who nonetheless traveled to Manila on the same flight," Cebu Pacific said.