BAGUIO CITY-For refusing to allow a man in crutches to use seats reserved for the disabled a year ago, a bus company servicing the Ilocos region has been fined P50,000, and given a lesson in political correctness and respect.
Antonio Damasco, an employee of the Department of Public Works and Highways who cannot stand and walk without crutches, said he boarded a Baguio-bound Partas bus on July 18 last year from Bacnotan, La Union, but was told that he could not use designated seats for the handicapped as these were occupied.
Instead, Damasco was told to use seat No. 34 at the back of the bus, and was forced to sit uncomfortably because he could not unlock the orthopedic brace clamped around his left leg.
Lawyer Brenda Poklay, legal officer of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in the Cordillera, ruled on May 4 that Damasco?s condition should have drawn the attention of conductor Pantaleon Tabangin Jr. or of driver Reynold Rentiquio.
She penalized both employees and Partas Transportation Co. Inc. for violating Republic Act No. 7277 (Magna Carta for Disabled Persons). Partas is owned by the family of Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis ?Chavit? Singson.
?I have been approached by certain sectors to settle this matter monetarily ? But I told them I had enough money to buy my own [food]. I just want the rules [on the rights of the disabled] to be followed,? Damasco said.
?No one follows this law (RA 7277). That had always irritated me. I was so ashamed sitting at the back row because I kept fidgeting each time my outstretched leg shifted from beneath me. I kept bumping into a girl seated beside me,? he said.
Damasco said the disability symbol was not displayed when he boarded the bus. This was one of the issues he raised when he confronted Tabangin and Rentiquio as soon as the bus reached Baguio.
He said the bus employees claimed that the symbol was tucked beneath the seats, which were occupied by sleeping male passengers.
The order said Tabangin and Rentiquio refused to wake up them up, and it would have been embarrassing to ask them to transfer seats.
Fernan Driza, Partas vice president, told the DOTC on Aug. 9 last year that the firm had investigated the case. Damasco said the decision made up for the indignities he suffered.