Caught on Video: Man, Assistance Dog Denied Entry at Robinson's Dumaguete

Caught on video: A man with disability and his assistance dog have been denied entry by security guards at Robinson's Place in Dumaguete.

Mark Cohen and his assistance dog 'Happy'
Photo courtesy of Hulagway ug Kasikas sa Dumaguete (TeamHUKAD) Facebook page
Facebook user Sam Du took the video and uploaded it last Wednesday, August 27. The incident took place ten days earlier.

Du identified the man as Mark Cohen, a 63-year-old retiree from Montreal, Canada.

In his Facebook page, Cohen said he is the director of the International Institute for Assistance Dog Training, a non-profit organization that teaches professionals, students and families how to train dogs to be Assistance Dogs for People with a Disability.

The institute also distributes flyers and posters regarding the problem about non-disabled persons parking their vehicles in spaces normally reserved for Persons with a Disability, he said.

Cohen has Parkinsonism, "a condition that causes a combination of the movement abnormalities seen in Parkinson's disease."

Because he has "variant symptoms similar to epilepsy," the Canadian national brings along most of the time a certified assistance dog named "Happy" as his companion.

Assistance dogs, or seizure alert dogs, can sense and warn their masters of upcoming seizures.

Cohen was barred by security guards from entering Robinson's Place last August 17 and, according to Du, waited for about an hour for the response of the mall's head office in Manila on whether he could go in or not.

Allegedly, the central office did not respond and both entrance and exit doors of the mall remain closed. At the time, Du said Cohen was already lying on the floor and causing disturbance.

Facebook user Mjay Escaño-Coromina posted a video showing two policemen dragging Cohen away from the entrance door.

In his letter to the establishment, Cohen said the security guards called the police, claiming he was "disturbing the peace." He was taken to the police station in handcuffs and later released without being charged with any offense.

"The Republic Acts 7227 and 9442, and Batas Pambansa Blg. 344, which are laws of the Government of the Philippines, do in fact allow me access with my Assistance Dog to your mall and to any public place or mode of transport," Cohen stated in his letter.

Meanwhile, Du shared a provision of RA 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (CHAPTER VI, ACCESSIBILITY, Sec. 25. Barrier-Free Environment), which states that:

The State shall ensure the attainment of a barrier-free environment that will enable disabled persons to have access in public and private buildings and establishments and such other places mentioned in Batas Pambansa Bilang 344, otherwise known as the "Accessibility Law".

"Robinsons Place Dumaguete does not discriminate on persons with disability," Du clarified. "However, they have a house rule on 'NO PETS ALLOWED.'"

"This establishment lacks awareness in regards to the rights of the PWDs with certified assistant dogs" was Du's personal opinion. "This situation could have been avoided if Robinsons Place took action to address this issue (e.g. educated themselves) since this is the 2nd time this has happened."