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10
Jul

PMA Class 1965 vs Cebu Pacific

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By Ramon Farolan | Philippine Daily Inquirer

In March 1965 the Philippine Military Academy graduated 57 brand-new second lieutenants for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The commander in chief then was President Diosdado Macapagal, while the AFP chief of staff was Gen. Alfredo M. Santos, an engineer-turned-soldier who was corps commander of the Mapua Institute of Technology ROTC contingent in his college years.

The valedictorian of the class was Cadet Antonio Daza, younger brother of Rep. Raul Daza of Samar. Aside from the Presidential Sabre that was reserved for the class topnotcher, Daza would win many of the awards that were handed out during graduation rites at Fort Del Pilar. The First Captain, or “Baron,” was Cadet Felix Turingan, from the Mountain Province. Turingan, along with Cadet Rex Robles of Iloilo, would later on become stalwart members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement during the crisis years of the Marcos regime.

At the height of their careers, Romeo Padiernos would
serve as commander, Southern Command, while Jose Lapuz would head Central Command in the Visayas. Romeo Malig was one of my key officials at the Bureau of Customs. He would later become the first Filipino to head American President Lines in Manila.

At the turn of the century, members of the class started to drop out of the service as they reached the compulsory retirement age of 56 years. Many would join the private sector while one, Ernesto Sacro, would be installed as a bishop of a Protestant community in the country. Jose Solquillo is an executive with the Lucio Tan group of companies, while Tirso Rosal served as a security consultant with Hanjin Shipyard in Subic after a stint as director of the PNP Computer Service.

Today all the living members of the class, together with the widows, are basically senior citizens of our society. They proudly carry senior citizen identification cards.

And this is where my story begins.

On May 26, 2017, four members of the class, including one widow, booked online round-trip tickets to Tagbilaran, Bohol, via Cebu Pacific. They were to attend the burial of a deceased classmate, Rear Admiral Manuel De Leon. Incidentally, De Leon was the first Philippine Coast Guard Commandant after the Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of National Defense to the Department of Transportation and Communications, now the Department of Transportation.

While making their bookings online, they realized there was neither a place to enter the information that they were all senior citizens, nor was there a clear notice or advice that senior citizen discounts were not allowed for online bookings. The following day they proceeded to SM Fairview to pay for their tickets, thinking that the senior citizen discount would then be implemented at the payment center. Not finding any Cebu Pacific office at SM Fairview, they went to a BDO payment center, presented their senior citizen IDs and asked for the senior discount. To their surprise, the receiving clerk informed them that she could only accept payment in the amount indicated in the online booking entry which was P50,265.44. They paid the whole amount, thinking that the discounts would be implemented at the Cebu Pacific counter at the airport. However, upon checking in they were told by the counter clerk that senior citizen discounts were not granted for online booked tickets.

Upon their return to Manila, they proceeded to the Cebu Pacific office at the airport to seek clarification as to why they were not granted the senior citizen discount. They were referred to a supervisor, Francis Dalagot, who in turn informed them that an Ivan Gaw would attend to their complaint based on the Passenger Feedback form which they were asked to fill out. In the form, they pointed out that the airline was in violation of the Senior Citizen Law, and asked for a reimbursement of the discount to which they were entitled to under the law. They included their names and contact numbers. Until now, there has been no response from Cebu Pacific.

My comments:

DOTC-DTI Administrative Order No. 01, Series of 2012, provides for a “Bill of Rights for Air Passengers and Carrier Obligations.” Under this Bill of Rights is Section 4.2 that in part reads: “In case of online booking, the air carrier must establish a system wherein the purchaser is fully apprised of the required disclosures under this Section twice prior to final submission of his/her online offer to purchase.”

But even in the absence of this administrative order, the fundamental law is quite clear. Republic Act No. 9904, known as the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010, grants senior citizens a 20-percent discount for “actual transportation fare for domestic air transport services.” The Implementing Rules and Regulations of this law specifically reads as follows: “Fare for domestic air and sea travel including advanced booking, shall be subject to the 20% discount and VAT exemption, if applicable.”

In this particular case, Cebu Pacific did not comply with the Bill of Rights for Air Passengers, and violated RA 9904, by not granting the senior citizen discount. Neither did Cebu Pacific get in touch with the passengers to explain its position.

Lengthy legal proceedings will not benefit either the community of senior citizens or the business organization concerned. Let us get together to ensure that the law is observed in a manner convenient for our elderly citizens. In the end, we all benefit from helping each other.