"The incident exemplifies how various forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities (PWDs) persist in our society and how much work needs to be done to rectify these," Cayetano, author of a bill seeking to create a disabilities affairs office in local government units, said in a statement.
"The apology issued by Cebu Pacific should be welcomed, as this creates awareness on the need for all airlines and transport facilities to review their respective policies on conveying PWDs," she added.
Cebu Pacific the same day issued a statement saying its cabin crew had misinterpreted aviation safety rules, and that it had taken steps to avoid similar incidents.
The airline had asked a passenger, Maritess Alcantara, about to depart Hong Kong on Dec. 23 to leave the aircraft together with her son. It reportedly cited a company policy that prohibited two mentally ill people aboard the same flight.
Alcantara's son has Global Development Delay, a condition that affects a child's motor skills and speech. Someone with Down's syndrome was said to be on the same flight.
Alcantara refused to leave the plane, which was delayed for over an hour. She took the alleged maltreatment to the press, saying she will sue the airline for discriminating against her son.
The incident has attracted national attention, with a number of blogs pointing out the irony of Cebu Pacific's tag line, "It's time everyone flies."
Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila De Lima expressed "dismay" over the incident, saying that she too is a mother of a special child.
"The law provides very clear and simple parameters to prevent discrimination against the special children and the Disabled in general," De Lima said. "Transport providers, specifically, are identified by statute to ensure that the Disabled are not discriminated against."
De Lima urged mandatory human rights training for employees of common carriers such as Cebu Pacific, which offers lower fares than the national carrier, Philippine Airlines.
Cayetano in her statement said the airline "should be guided by Sec.34 of Republic Act 7277, the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, which considers it a form of discrimination for any franchisees, operators or personnel of sea, land and air transportation facilities to refuse to convey a passenger by reason of his or her disability."