Sexual harassment complaint filed vs. Azkals members

MANILA, Philippines - The recent friendly football match between the Philippine team, the Azkals, and Malaysia's champion football team on Feb. 29 was supposed to bring camaraderie between the two nations and instill a sense of healthy competition and pride in Filipinos. But a startling issue mars the event as Match Commissioner Cristina Ramos files a sexual harassment complaint against two members of the Azkals.

According to a GMA News report, Ramos, a former member of the Asian Football Federation [AFC] Women's Committee and former president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, filed the complaint against Azkals members American-born Fil-Chinese Lexton Moy and Filipino-Spanish Angel Guirado before the disciplinary committee of the AFC.

Ramos, the daughter of former president Fidel V. Ramos, called for sanctions against Moy and Guirado in a letter addressed to the chairman of the AFC Disciplinary Committee, Mr. Lim Kia Tong.

According to her complaint, posted in full on the GMA News website, the incident happened ''during the team check for the friendly match between the Philippines and Malasiya (both 'A' teams) on 29 February 2012, 1900H, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, Manila, Philippines.''

As she explained, the AFC regulations and Official Countdown requires the Match Commissioner, together with the Fourth Official, to check the teams before the match ''to verify their identification (accreditation) cards and ensure that their kits are in proper order.'' She had also previously explained that, with her being a female Match Commissioner doing the team check on a men's match, she would give both teams ''sufficient warning and preparation time'' before she enters their changing rooms.

In her complaint, she noted that at the appointed time of 1745H (5:45 pm), she came to the Azkals changing room for the team check with Fourth Official Wilfredo Bermejo and liaison officer Joseph Gensaya. Upon knocking, they were told the team would be ready in five minutes. However, she narrated that upon entering the changing room of the Philippine team and introducing herself and her companions, the players allegedly ''remained rowdy and noisy, apparently not taking the team check seriously and almost ignoring our presence.''

On her individual check, she called on player Lexton Moy who, standing on her right side, allegedly ''said in a loud voice, 'Must be a B cup.''' Apparently this remark elicited loud laughter from the players. She noted she was the only female in the room, and figured he was talking about her bra size (as opposed to the players' athletic cups, which are classified by sizes-small, medium, etc.-as opposed to the letters A, B, C and so on).

She also claimed in her complaint that when it was time to check Angel Guirado, he allegedly stood in front of her ''purposely just wearing his briefs an made no attempt to wear shorts of cover his underwear.'' Again, she pointed out that this elicited loud laughter from the rest of the players.

Furthermore, Ramos stated that, ''While all this was happening, none of the Philippine team officials present nor the team captain, JAMES JOSEPH YOUNGHUSBAND (no. 7), made any attempts to discipline the players and tell them to behave properly.'' She claimed they were also laughing and ''seemed to be enjoying the revelry at my expense.''

She ended her complaint by saying, ''I have not experience this crude and totally shameful behaviour from a national team anywhere before this incident.'' And asked that, ''this kind of sexist and demeaning behaviour has no place in football, and should therefore be sanctioned.''

While there has not been any statement from the AFC yet, the Azkals team manager Dan Palami-whom Ramos noted was not present during the incident, and neither was head coach Hans Michael Weiss-released a statement, which assured the Match Commissioner that ''the PFF and I take these allegations seriously'' and will ''promptly investigate the incident.''

Palami apparently postponed his trip to Nepal to meet with Ramos to discuss the incident. However, he did note that he had met with the Commissioner after the game and they had ''exchanged pleasantries'' without any mention of the incident. Palami said that he would have ''addressed the issue right then.''

He explained that a dialogue with the players is not possible for now since the team has already left the country for the AFC tournament. Nevertheless, they will ''not put off the investigation even as we prepare for a major tournament.''

Since he was not present at the time, he could not ''comment substantially on the matter'' until he ''hears from all sides.''

Palami nevertheless reiterated his belief that ''sexual harassment should not be tolerated in any situation'' and that he will ''look into the circumstances of the alleged incident.''

He ended his statement by saying, ''On behalf of the team, I sincerely apologize to Commissioner Ramos for the distress this situation has caused her.''

In mid 2011, the media also got wind of a rumored incident of rape supposedly perpetrated by four other members of the Azkals-Jason Sabio, Nei Etheridge, Anton del Rosario and Simon Greatwich. Although she would neither confirm nor deny it, the purported victim was later identified as model Amanda Coling.

While Palami also said before that the alleged incident would be investigated, Coling, meanwhile, maintained she had ''high regard'' for the team and refused to comment about the issue. No complaint or lawsuit has been filed against the Azkals members.