A close friend of mine and PPCRV's Chief Legal Counsel, Atty. Howard M. Calleja, sent me an article narrating his experiences with his daughter, Minuet Ashley "Minty" Ticson Calleja, as they battle as family the impact of a rare disease which Minty had to bear in such the young age of five years old. When Atty. Howard wrote this article last October 29, he did not know that Minty would finally receive her angel's wings in the company of our heavenly Father on All Saints' Day, November 1. I am sharing to you this article in its entirety with the hope that the same situation encountered by Atty. Howie and his family will never be repeated. for if this situation can happen to a family who can afford to "financially bear" the impact of such unseemly treatment, how much burden can these "similar situations" have on those who we consider marginalized in our society? This is what Atty. Calleja had to share:
It started with a low grade fever that persisted for weeks. Later on, there was arthralgia (pain in the joints). We consulted various doctors, from our pediatricians to our specialist. after almost two months of daily test and laboratory workouts, my daughter, Minuet Ashley Calleja, 5 years old, was diagnosed with Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or Lupus). The diagnosis was confirmed by the doctors in Singapore. Upon confirmation of her diagnosis, my wife and I read extensively about the disease. In our readings we came across the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (Republic Act 7277, as amended by Republic Act 9442) or “MCDP.” Upon learning about the privileges given to disabled persons, we immediately applied for and were granted an MCDP card.
Our initial encounter on how big corporations treat persons with disability came while boarding our Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight from Manila to Singapore. We did not avail of the 20% discount on our tickets because our application was still in process when we purchased our tickets. This article, however, is not about the tickets.
During our check-in our travel agent told us that the bulk seats are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis only. So we arrived more than two hours before the scheduled departure time to request the said seats.
The person assigned at Check-in Counter No. 46, Ms. Rose Ann Beunaventura, was very accommodating and helpful. She told us that the seats we requested were available, but much to our surprise, after her conversation with her supervisor (Supervisor Donna), we were told that said seats were already reserved by another party. We were then told to wait so that they can fix the situation, and that they will let us speak with the passengers who supposedly reserved the bulkhead.
The check0in gates closed 45 minutes before departure but still nobody has checked-in the bulkhead. To our surprised we were suddenly informed that the seat has already been taken and that the individuals concerned could not be disturbed anymore because they were in the Mabuhay lounge already.
We told Ms. Buenaventura that we are going to Singapore to seek medical attention for our child. Yet,.they did not even make an effort to fix the situation. Worse , they never gave us a chance to fix it ourselves. We found out that two seats at the bulkhead were available, and those who got the other two seats are good family friends of ours. A good arrangement would have been agreed upon.
Our second incident with regard to MCDP surprisingly came from St. Luke/s Medical Center. When we presented our card, the Admitting department did not know anything about the MCDP. To add to our shock, we were referred to the Billing Department and told that they will review the matter.
Three days later, I referred the matter to the lawyers of St. Luke's. Being colleagues and friends, we discussed the matter and I was assured that they will inform the hospital about it and that everything will be okay. However, when we were discharged, the Billing Department still refused to grant the privileges under the MCDP. After a lengthy discussion, we again referred the matter to the lawyers of St. Luke's. They agreed to review about the matter but we had to pay the full amount, pending said review. Jun, the manager of the Billing Department even said there is no policy with regard to disabled patients and even if there was one, their billing system cannot accommodate the same. This, coming from a medical institution that prides itself with patient care, is downright appalling.
Our third frustrating experience regarding the MCDP was with Mercury Drug – Dela Rosa Branch, Makati, which also refused to honor the MCDP card. The manager or supervisor in-charge even arrogantly said, “ [we] do not honor that card because the law is already non-existent.” Too tired to argue, we just left in disgust.
This three companies all claim to be world class. But how can they be world class when they do not honor the rights and privileges of the disabled under the law?
Thankfully, in every situation there are silver linings. And my first thumbs up should go to Watsons in Greenbelt, Makati branch that accepted the card without question and with a smiling face! My second thumbs up goes to my daughter's, my wife's and my mother-in-law's alma mater, the Assumption College at San Lorenzo, Makati City. With open arms they tried to and are still trying to continuously understand the situaion and embrace my daughter with full understanding of her condition. The Assumption College has graciously said that it will allow my daughter to finish Kindergarten 2, even if she exceeds the limit of 40 allowable absences prescribed by the Department of Education.
In closing, my wife and I have accepted that the condition of my daughter, Minuet Ashley, may continue throughout her life. As much as we are hopeful to find a cure soon, we pray that the plight of disabled persons would be given proper attention and concern. And finally, we pray to dear God that as we surrender to Him our daughter, Minuet Ashley, we ask for His healing hands and divine protection.
It is a pain that these big corporations that boast world-class services do not have kind consideration when it comes to the rights of the disabled persons. Let us make a better world-a world where respect and a loving environment for the disabled exists. Help me spread the message by sharing this blog post. Thanks in advance.
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