Another black eye for the country
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2018 - 12:00am

This past week I was saddened and upset to read the news about the alleged sexual harassment that happened during the recently concluded Ms. Earth 2018 pageant. In this present climate of zero tolerance and women speaking up more about inappropriate behavior, you would think that men would take a beat and think about their actions and words, but apparently that is still not the case.

Three Miss Earth candidates have alleged in their social media that a pageant sponsor continuously harassed them during their time in the Philippines including making unwanted advances, asking for their private contact details and room numbers, offering them help to win for “favors” in return, and even allegedly grabbing one contestant’s bare back during the National Costume Competition.

One of the girls named the sponsor as Amado Cruz and said that their encounters with him ruined their experience and soured their trip to the Philippines because they didn’t “feel safe” while they were here – understandably considering the person they felt was harassing them was present at all of their events and even allegedly on coronation night.

Formal proceedings are ongoing and the news was definitely disappointing but is it surprising? Unfortunately it is not. Sadly, I bet this type of behavior is quite prevalent in the pageant circuit around the world. I’m not generalizing but I have read enough stories similar to this to see a pattern. It’s sad that these accounts have put the country in a bad light but that’s what happens when people behave inappropriately.

Cruz, for his part, alleges that his actions were not malicious but simply those of a host trying to be gracious and help promote tourism in the country. He claims to have never asked for any special favors or assured anyone of help winning the crown. But honestly, if you think about it rationally – why would these three women lie? They have nothing to gain.

I also think this should serve as a big reminder to all pageant coordinators and officials here in the Philippines and around the world to take better care of their contestants – the same holds true for those in charge of fashion shows, those caring for talents in entertainment, and so on. These women have worked hard to get where they are and should not be made to feel unsafe. If they have complaints or concerns they should be taken seriously – not just tossed aside and not given importance.

* * *

Despite the outcry against the militarization of some Cabinet posts by the Duterte administration, I can see why he thinks it is a good idea and I am supportive of the move – to an extent. Objectively speaking – if you see that many of the Cabinet positions are held by those from the Philippine Military Academy in Benguet you can’t help but feel that they will continue to uphold the motto they live by – integrity, honesty, and courage and carry them over into their civilian lives and into whatever jobs they may pursue. These traits could help them be excellent public servants.

I think, or I would like to believe, that at the heart of it, the reasons why the president would want to put former military men and women in positions of power is because these are people who are strong, disciplined, and taught to think on their feet among other things. They are people who are used to navigating hard times with grace and won’t buckle under pressure. However, if that is the case, he articulated it poorly when he was asked about it during an event in Cagayan de Oro last October.

At the time, he claimed he preferred military personnel because they follow orders (which is good to an extent) and don’t give him a hard time by debating with him. That’s where things got a bit scary. After all, we have a democratic government and it is everyone’s right and even duty to question the president when he is doing something they don’t believe in. If we just have “yes” men and women in the government there will be no proper checks and balances and this is something we need to avoid.

I guess at the end of the day we should look at each government appointed official on the basis oftheir merits. I think a good balance can be struck here between those who worry about militarization and those who can see the merits of military training in civilian life and public service. We can be open-minded but we must never let it reach a point of apathy and careless acceptance.

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