CHR probing alleged discrimination of autistic boy by high-end Cebu resort
CEBU CITY — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Central Visayas has stepped in to investigate the alleged “poor handling” of a guest and a child with special needs in a luxury resort in Cebu.
Lawyer Arvin Odron, regional director of CHR, said the commission’s investigation division has started the formal inquiry on Plantation Bay Resort and Spa on Wednesday (Dec. 9).
“I directed the investigation division to get in touch with the mother and the resort management,” he said in a text message to INQUIRER.
Leo Villarino, chief investigator of the regional CHR office, said the commission was starting to gather information on the allegation based on media reports.
“What we are doing is motu proprio,” said Villarino, using the term for “on its own.” “We have to do this since the controversy involved a minor. We will determine whether the rights of the child were violated,” he said.
Villarino said the CHR tried to reach out to Mai Pages, the mother of a six-year-old boy with autism who was allegedly discriminated against by the management of Plantation Bay.
As of Thursday, Villarino said the CHR has not received any response from Pages yet.
“We are conducting an investigation and having the cooperation of the parties involved is very important,” he said.
If CHR finds probable cause against the resort, formal charges will be filed at the prosecutor’s office.
“The filing of a case depends first and foremost on the cooperation of the boy’s family because we need to establish that there is sufficient evidence against the resort,” Villarino said.
Aside from the CHR, The Department of Tourism is also looking into the alleged discrimination.
Cindy Chan, chair of the Tourism, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission in Lapu-Lapu City, said the Plantation Bay incident was “isolated” and should not affect the city’s tourism programs.
“We’re really hoping that it won’t affect us. We leave it to the proper authorities to investigate the matter,” she said in a media interview.
The resort, she said, promised to submit a report to Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan, her husband.
Chan said her office asked Plantation Bay to implement measures to prevent a repeat of the incident.
“This is also an eye-opener for resorts and hotels to properly handle these situations and to be sensitive to the needs of people, especially special children or adults,” she added.
Plantation Bay Resort and Spa drew flak over the treatment of a child with autism last weekend.
The resort management has apologized for the incident.
In a narration posted in the tourism website TripAdvisor for a review of Plantation Bay, Pages said she and her child were discriminated against and excluded in the resort. She said two lifeguards had called her attention to her child’s squealing and asked her to stop it.
Pages expressed dismay on social media which prompted Manny Gonzalez, the resort’s resident stakeholder, to respond.
In a now deleted comment on TripAdvisor, Gonzalez accused Pages of “most likely deliberately lying” or was misinformed about autism.
“For your information, uncontrolled shouting is not a symptom of autism,” Gonzalez had said in his comment.
“On the contrary, autistic children tend to be silent, nonverbal, and overwhelmed and withdrawn when faced with strangers. Google ‘autism’ and verify this for yourself,” Gonzalez said.