Say if ha­rassed too, beau­ties urged

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —STORY BY AR­MIN P. AD­INA

The Miss Earth or­ga­ni­za­tion asked more con­tes­tants to come for­ward if they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment, af­ter three beauty queens ear­lier took to so­cial me­dia to com­plain. “The or­ga­ni­za­tion does not con­done or tol­er­ate any rude or im­moral be­hav­ior to­ward the del­e­gates by spon­sors or any­body for that mat­ter,” says an of­fi­cial of Carousel Pro­duc­tions Inc.

The com­pany that or­ga­nized the re­cent stag­ing of Miss Earth beauty pageant in the coun­try has en­cour­aged more con­tes­tants to come for­ward if they also ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, af­ter three del­e­gates took to so­cial me­dia ear­lier this week to com­plain.

“The Miss Earth or­ga­ni­za­tion does not con­done or tol­er­ate any rude or im­moral be­hav­ior to­ward the del­e­gates by spon­sors or any­body for that mat­ter. I im­me­di­ately in­structed our project di­rec­tor to ban the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor from all fur­ther func­tions and events,” said Lor­raine Schuck, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Carousel Pro­duc­tions Inc.

All the del­e­gates were asked to sub­mit a writ­ten state­ment “to en­able me to find out di­rectly from them if they ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent so we could take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion. I also wanted to find out if any of the other del­e­gates could cor­rob­o­rate the com­plaint of Miss Canada and Miss Eng­land so we could use the state­ments to help the two in case they de­cide to file a case against the al­leged ha­rasser,” Schuck said in a state­ment is­sued on Thurs­day night.

Three can­di­dates—Miss Canada Jaime Van­denberg, Miss Eng­land Abbey-Anne GylesBrown and Miss Guam Emma Mae Sheedy—shared on so­cial me­dia this week how a pageant spon­sor—later iden­ti­fied by Sheedy as busi­ness­man Amado S. Cruz—al­legedly made sex­ual ad­vances on them, and made them feel “un­safe” and “un­com­fort­able.”

‘Feel­ing ex­ploited’

Cruz, whose so­cial me­dia ac­count de­scribed him as pres­i­dent of New Qual­i­trans Inc., a car rental com­pany, and CEO/pres­i­dent of Off­shore Con­struc­tion and Devel­op­ment Co., has been a long­time spon­sor of the pageant.

On her In­sta­gram ac­count, Van­denberg said she left the com­pe­ti­tion be­cause she “did not feel safe” af­ter a spon­sor stalked her and in­sin­u­ated that sex­ual fa­vors would im­prove her chances in the com­pe­ti­tion.

Gyles-Brown fol­lowed suit and also posted on In­sta­gram that half of her good ex­pe­ri­ences in the pageant “was over­shad­owed by feel­ing ex­ploited, vul­ner­a­ble, un­nerved and sex­u­ally ha­rassed” by a cer­tain pageant spon­sor.

Sheedy said on her In­sta­gram ac­count: “A spe­cific spon­sor from the Manila Yacht Club would change the way I see pageantry and spon­sors. The spon­sor [whose] name is Amado S. Cruz be­came a prob­lem for many of the del­e­gates, in­clud­ing my­self.”

She added: “Cruz grabbed my bare back­side at the na­tional cos­tume com­pe­ti­tion where I was able to push him away, but he con­sis­tently told me not to tell any­one about any of the in­stances.”

‘Cor­rob­o­rated’

The three said they ini­tially told their team man­agers about the in­ci­dents and, when noth­ing hap­pened, di­rected their com­plaint to Schuck. But al­though Schuck had promised to ban­ish Cruz from the re­main­ing events in the com­pe­ti­tion, he was still present un­til the coro­na­tion night, they added.

Schuck said she was made aware of the com­plaints by the “team man­agers” who took care of the women and that she talked to Gyles-Brown on the phone to ver­ify what was re­ported to her. “I be­lieve her [ac­count],” she said.

Schuck said Cruz also “cor­rob­o­rated” Gyles-Brown’s story that he in­deed ap­proached her to ask if she wanted to see Bo­ra­cay. She then told him of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s de­ci­sion to ban him from the event. “I told him some of the girls were not com­fort­able. He can­not be around them.” He felt bad be­cause he be­lieved he “did not do any­thing wrong,” she added.

Schuck also be­wailed that the three can­di­dates had raised their con­cerns on so­cial me­dia in­stead of di­rect­ing them to her.

“That [In­sta­gram state­ment] was not what Miss Eng­land told me. If she had told me what she said on In­sta­gram, I would have freaked out,” she said.

On al­le­ga­tions that Cruz still showed up in sev­eral pageant events de­spite com­plaints against him be­ing brought to Carousel’s at­ten­tion, Schuck said she did not have any con­trol in pub­lic places, such as the ho­tels where the can­di­dates were stay­ing and the Arena where the fi­nal cer­e­monies were held.

Schuck also clar­i­fied re­ports that the or­ga­niz­ers con­fis­cated the del­e­gates’ pass­ports. “We [held] them for safe­keep­ing and to fa­cil­i­tate the del­e­gates’ check-in for flights and ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tions. The del­e­gates [were] free to keep their pass­ports if they want[ed] to.”

Un­writ­ten rule

Sev­eral can­di­dates have de­nied knowl­edge of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in­ci­dents in the pageant.

Kather­ine McClure, Canada’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in 2005, said she “was never per­son­ally ha­rassed or oth­er­wise co­erced to do any­thing of a sex­ual na­ture in my time.”

But McClure ac­knowl­edged that “most women faced some level of sex­ual ha­rass­ment or co­er­cion at some point ... re­lat­ing to spon­sors.”

“There was an un­writ­ten rule in pageantry re­gard­ing spon­sors. They’re the bread and but­ter and so your job is to keep them happy,” she said. “Their fa­vorites are boosted in the rank­ings and if you fall from their grace you plum­met. This has never been ex­plic­itly said to me ... but we all knew that it was ex­pected be­cause it only makes sense, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

Mean­while, Manila Yacht Club (MYC) clar­i­fied that Cruz was not a mem­ber of MYC, where he spon­sored a din­ner for the beauty queens on Oct. 14. He may have been spon­sored by a club mem­ber so he could hold the event there, it said.

—RICHARD A. REYES

CROWNINGMOMENT Glitz and glamor light up the Miss Earth coro­na­tion night on Nov. 3 at SMMall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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