what it is? between the sexual harassment & racist comment surrounding the azkals

by Rick Olivares

(originally posted on bleachersbrew – http://bleachersbrew.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-it-is-between-sexual-harassment.html

What is it? Or what it is. Let’s get this out of the way… I am a firm believer in a strong grassroots football program that will give chances for our homegrown players to be world-class. I also believe that match officials should be respected in and out of the locker room. And I am unequivocally against sexual harassment and racism. I have experienced the latter while working abroad and truly bristle at the mere mention of it but this is not about me. It’s about this seemingly interminable complaint of Ms. Cristina Ramos about being sexually harassed by a couple of members of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team during a routine inspection of the players inside their locker room prior to the recent friendly match against Malaysia.

I grimaced when I heard of the incident. Oh, no. I thought to myself. What happened? Is this for real?

When I read of her complaint that came out in media, I once more grimaced. Why did this happen, I asked? Is this for real?

One thing is for sure and that is we do not know all the facts and whatever is out there is pretty much one-sided. Again I do not condone sexual harassment or racism in any form but I do believe that due process and protocol should be followed. Having worked with Ms. Ramos in the local organizing committee for the past two home matches of the national team, she was a joy to work with for her thoroughness, candor, and her energy. She reiterated time and again to the PFF Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of which I was a part of about adhering to the rules as well as following protocol and processes. And in my opinion, there lies part of the problem.

Immediately after her inspection of the Philippine national team, she seemed distressed and upset. She went to the match commissioner’s room where some of the secretariat and the LOC members were to inform them about “being disrespected”. She was advised to include in her (match commissioner’s) report her complaint. The following day, she met up with Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Mariano V. Araneta during the PFF-UFL (United Football League) Fellowship Night (and was advised) to do the same.

Now what shocked everyone was why and how she filed the report to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and not the PFF. She said that the PFF office was closed the following day so she took it to AFC.

For someone who says she is a stickler for protocol she sure broke it right there. If her complaint is being blocked and whitewashed locally, I can understand taking it to the press. But it is not. The PFF hired her to serve as Match Commissioner not the AFC. And as per Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and AFC rules, Match Commissioners should not talk to the media.

In the AFC Guidelines, Section C Article 5 of Common provisions for Match Officials (page 16), it is written that, “AFC Match Officials shall adopt a reserved attitude towards the media and shall not pass comment on the referees and assistant referees or any of their decisions. Neither may they make any forecasts about forthcoming decisions by the Disciplinary Committee in connection with any incidents that have occurred at the game.”

In the AFC’s Match Commissioners’ seminar last January 17-20 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it is written in the Basic Principles (section B5 Communication), “Absolutely no interviews may be granted while on assignment.”

Two days after the incident, she met with the PFF’s Araneta and General Secretary Rolly Tulay about the incident and it was there that she informed them that she had already informed the media about her complaint. I know media officers are not supposed to talk about any incidents for up to 48 hours after the end of their assignment and I don’t know if that applies to Match Commissioners but nevertheless, this – again no one is whitewashing anything – matter should have been resolved from within. In that same meeting, she also asked if the PFF was willing, to be assigned as Match Commissioner in the next home match so she could discipline the team!

Her complaint also came out with the players not in town and unable to defend themselves. If the players are found guilty then I say that they should be punished in a manner that fits their folly. Whatever the rulings and findings are, I would like to think that they will be based on facts and whatever legalese you might want to thrown in. But as it is, they were already tried by publicity.

Ms. Ramos has gone on the offensive in media and social media about the issue. Now here are a few things that I have to throw into the mix to gain further perspective on things.

On Friday, February 24, five days before the match against Malaysia, a Pep Rally for the Azkals was held at the SM Megamall. After the match, the LOC and the players trooped to the nearby Kenny Rogers restaurant for dinner. During that dinner, Ms. Ramos blurted out to the committee (the Azkals were seated nearby but I don’t think they heard the diatribe), “What’s with this, ‘I’m from Chinatown, New York’ and ‘I’m from Spain’. Why don’t they just say that they are Filipino?” She then asked the team’s liaison officer Patrick Ace Bright if the team was put through etiquette and public speaking courses.

I answered her, “What is wrong with what they said?” Obviously, she was referring to Azkals midfielders Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado.

I told her not to take this out of context. During the fan session of the Pep Rally, LOC head Richard Joson asked the players to introduce themselves. Azkals wingback Roel Gener led it off.

“I am Roel Gener and taga-Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo ako.”

That was followed by Iranian-Filipino Misagh Bahadoran who said that although he was born in the Philippines, he didn’t speak English and Filipino well.

The third player to introduce himself was Ed Sacapaño: “Ako si Eduard Sacapaño at taga-Bacolod, Negros ako.”

Moy, the fourth player to speak, followed the pattern of introduction while Guirado was one of the last.

Now this might be a stand-alone episode. Yet it also might not because she also decried the team’s “Fil-foreigner flavor” to many of us in the LOC and anyone involved in local football willing to listen. In fact, during the post-Malaysia match press conference, she spoke with one of the press officers about how the team should be represented by locals and not the Fil-foreigners.

I cited how the German National Football Team is beset with similar problems with the influx of players of foreign descent like Mesut Ozil (who has Turkish roots), Sami Khedira (whose father is Tunisian), Mario Gomez (whose father is Spanish), and Jerome Boateng (whose father is Ghanaian and his brother Kevin Prince plays for the Black Stars). They are not alone in that respect. France has featured a multi-racial squad for years with some born domestically while others originating from former colonies. Are they violating any rules? No they are not. It is prescribed not just with FIFA but also with almost every other sports body in the world. We are unlike other countries like Qatar that opt for naturalization as opposed to utilizing citizens with dual citizenship.

How about Paulino Alcantara? He is Spanish-Filipino and yet he played for both the Spanish and Philippine flags. Isn’t that balimbing? But no. The rules of that time said it was possible. Personally, I feel about him the way Argentineans feel about Lionel Messi (if you don’t know what that is I recommend that you read up on that). But if they say he is the greatest Filipino footballer ever, well…

Incredibly, sometime last year, Ms. Ramos was raving to me about Eduardo Teus, a Filipino who played for Real Madrid! She even took a picture of it and placed it on her Facebook account. I have no idea if Teus’ mother was Filipina but he was born in the Philippines. But former basketball star, Alex Compton, who was born in Makati City, is not considered a Filipino and was refused play in the PBA until he was in the twilight of his career.

When the national team arrives, Moy and Guirado will be given 48 hours to file their reports about the incident. The PFF, which has followed protocol on this situation, says that this has gone on too long and they hope it can come to a resolution. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this one is going to end any time soon.

Not when it was compounded by this ugly “racist” comment that GMA7 host/anchor Arnold Clavio uttered during the show, “Unang Hirit.”

Who is a true Filipino? History books have shown us that the first the first occupants of the Philippines were the Callao and Tabon men, the Negrito tribes, and those who left Borneo, China, India, and other countries. Having been colonized and occupied by the Spanish, Dutch, English, and Americans, ours is a mixed race. I find it funny that Clavio thinks the “kayumanggi” race is who we are? Should the Aetas be insulted by his comment?

Someone asked if Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado were given a chance to suit up for the national teams of the United States or Spain, would they play there? I think you go where you think it is best for you. Just like many of our countrymen who opt to work abroad as opposed to staying home. Where is it best for you? And why stop at football? Take a look at pro basketball as well as our national teams for tennis, swimming, and what else – they have many Filipinos of foreign lineage.

We are quick to embrace anyone with an ounce of Filipino blood as Filipino. You saw that during American Idol. And we see that in showbiz. How many are of foreign lineage? But when someone, say like Matthew Hartmann or Anjanette Abayari does something wrong, we say, “Go back to where you came from?” And we add, “Ah, kasi puti o Amerikano.” Where did that come from?

The world is a much smaller place. Made smaller by immigration, technology, and business. Look at the New York Knicks’ wunderkind, Jeremy Lin. Will he crack the lineup of the US Men’s National Basketball Team? For his position, point guard, the Americans are at least four deep. So does he play for his parents’ country of origin, Taiwan?

I think we should be a little more broad-minded when it comes to these matters. That and adhering to protocol rather than trial by publicity. The last I checked, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

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