Ignorance is still bliss for the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration as far as the fundamental, constitutional rights of Filipinos, including people with disabilities, are concerned, which we could clearly see in its mistreatment of Franklin Galano Corpuz.

After Qatar Airways allowed him to check in on October 4 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the BI — yes, that’s shorthand both for this agency and for the phrase “bad influence” —  told Corpuz that he cannot leave the Philippines because he was “deaf and therefore cannot speak”. He was then asked to leave the airport.

The BI refused to allow Corpuz to leave the country for his flight to Qatar despite his presentation of his valid Philippine passport that is stamped with a visa from the interior ministry of Qatars. He also came with an affidavit of support from Al Mana Interiors and an invitation letter for a business training for persons with disabilities which he is supposed to attend.

Oddly, the BI office at the NAIA would later claim that Corpuz was denied permission to leave because in its assessment, Corpuz had “no sufficient proof that his trip is for business to Qatar considering that he is deaf and mute.” (But the blasted agency did not state what other documents, if any, Corpuz needed to present. An implication may be that he cannot forever leave until he satisfies the whims and caprices of BI officers about “sufficient proof”.)

The irony of ironies: A Qatari business invited Corpuz to a training tailor-fit for PWDs like him, for which the Qatari government granted him a visa and the Qatari Airways allowed him to book a ticket and to check in for his flight — but our own government refused to honor his fundamental right to travel.

The official reason cited by the BI at the NAIA was/is unacceptable under our laws.  Corpuz fulfilled all the legal requirements to travel.

This is an insult the community of persons with disabilities, their supporters and right-thinking citizens should not take lightly. Sunshine Supermarket and Hotel Veniz in Baguio City, which have employed Corpuz should not take this lightly. People he has served as a professional driver should not take this lightly. His friends and family, including his wife Philippine Federation for the Deaf president Raquel Corpuz, should not take this lightly.

But more than an insult, this is a gross violation of the fundamental, constitutional right to travel and a clear discriminatory action against a person with disability. The BI should respect and uphold the spirit and letter of the Constitution and Republic Acts 7277 and 9442, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

If you feel for Corpuz and would like to help him to compel the BI to recognize and honor his fundamental, constitutional rights, the De La Salle College of St. Benilde School of the Deaf and Applied Studies urges you to send letters of protest to Attorney Ronaldo Ledesma, the officer in charge of the BI, through telefax number (+632)5273276 and to the Department of Justice-Action Center via email addresses dojac@doj.gov.ph and soj@doj.gov.ph.

Feel free to forward this article so other people may know and hopefully take action.