Press Release
August 1, 2013


TAGUM CITY -- Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, PDP Laban President, today offered the services of a lawyer to Arjean Marie Belco, an indigenous Filipino youth delegate to the World Youth Day in Brazil who was denied boarding by KLM Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Rio de Janeiro.

"From what I gather from news reports, it appears that Ms. Belco had been denied her right to travel by the airline on the basis of a cursory look at her travel papers. We will have to determine whether this is a case of discrimination," Pimentel said during the 21st installation of officers and turn-over ceremony, IBP Davao del Norte-Comval Chapter at the IBP Hall, Capitol Compound, Tagum City.

Pimentel, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice, said that once Belco returns to the Philippines, he would offer her legal counsel so she could seek redress for her delayed flight to the World Youth Day graced by the presence of no less than Pope Francis.

"This is another test case for us. We must uphold our pride and dignity as Filipinos. KLM appears to have bumped her off from her flight to Rio de Janeiro on the basis of a whimsical and capricious decision by a member of the ground crew who questioned her travel papers and financial capability to undertake the trip," the senator said.

Belco, an 18-year-old student from the Talaandig tribe in Mindanao who is studying to become a teacher, was invited to attend the World Youth Day in Brazil by Good Exchange, a US-based NGO, which shouldered all her expenses, including her airline ticket.

Belco managed to arrive in Brazil in time for the occasion, but not after a lengthy delay amid negotiations by the organizers of her trip with the airline to allow her to board her flight.

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