A “major” sponsor’s sense of entitlement puts Miss Earth pageant on the spot | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Businessman Amado S. Cruz has no one to blame but his own sickening sense of entitlement for the humiliation he suffers these days.

Three contestants in the recently-concluded Miss Earth pageant have taken to social media to expose how Cruz, who sponsored a grand total of two free meals for a limited number of pageant participants, somehow got access to their phone numbers.

Cruz called the women, asking for their hotel room numbers and promising they would “go further” in the beauty contest if they grant him sexual favors.

There were also stories of Miss Earth contestants being isolated from their team managers and security personnel at Cruz’s behest, of his alleged preference for “latino women” and of contestants being forced to dance with or for him.

Guam’s Emma Mae Sheedy claimed Cruz grabbed her backside during the national costume competition and told her not to tell anyone after she resisted.

Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, who represented England, recalled being laughed at by a team manager after she reported her discomfort at Cruz’s behavior.

Canada’s Jaimey Yvonnne Vandenburg left Manila before the competition finished, apparently believing that staying on would endanger her safety.

Cruz’s excuse

A subsequent social media post attributed to Cruz shows him displaying a contemptuous tone in playing down the complaints.

He pointed out the three women were among the “bottom 10” in pageant rankings and that he was used as a scapegoat for their situation.

He also chided netizens for immediately believing the accusations, calling them “dirty-minded” and described himself as a Miss Earth “major sponsor (because I really) care for the environment.”

Cruz concluded his rant saying people should practice love, not hate because “magpapasko na (sic).”

Note that Cruz’s statement did not acknowledge the numerous photos of him embracing or having his arms around Miss Earth contestants that followed after the three women’s grievances aired on social media.

Based on what little we know about Cruz, deductions could already be made why he behaved as he did. Most glaring is the assumption he may be orbiting the same circles as President Duterte. This after a photo of the two of them appeared on social media hours after the Miss Earth candidates’ revelations were posted. Call it a case of birds of a feather.

At the risk of sounding ageist, we believe the mid-20th century machismo culture that Cruz basked in also had a lot to do with his behavior.

Cruz came of age in an era when women were carried atop pedestals to be admired and desired. Women were supposed to be weak, subject to the masculine whims of their husbands and most likely financially dependent on them.

Truth be told and especially in circles of power, most women of that period were valued based on beauty. The phrase trophy wife was not yet in vogue but part of the reason men of power gained respect was whether they were able to marry beauty queens or so-called society girls. And the women’s value increased if they had western features, like what Cruz looked for.

Weird as it sounds, think of the Miss Earth competition as a culmination of everything wrong that Cruz learned in his youth.

All this of course, does not excuse Cruz for his actions.  Decency and respect for others are virtues that were also taught to his generation. Growing up in an environment that fostered intense machismo does not absolve him.

Were there other victims?

In his mind, Cruz apparently assumed the free dinners he gave the 30 or so out of the 90 contestants already entitled him to certain privileges.

It is sad that his supposed philanthropy required the reciprocation he anticipated. We wonder how many more “sponsors” had, have, or will have a similar agenda, preying on helpless women who only come here to represent their country in a competition for beauty.

The beauty pageant community was understandably aghast after the three women’s stories began appearing on social media. It wasn’t even that Cruz was an ultra-minor and majorly unacknowledged sponsor who demanded predatory perks in exchange for his measly financial contributions.

It was how authorities responsible for the safety and security of Miss Earth candidates dismissed the repeated complaints about Cruz.

One insider said he found very disturbing the dismissive reaction of team managers whom the distressed candidates reached out to.

There appears to be a severe disconnect between how organizers and candidates perceive sexual harassment.

Unwelcome invitations enough to cause sleepless nights for a candidate were made to appear as “only fun” by others who were tasked to look after her welfare.

Also note that after the three women’s posts appeared on social media, personal accounts by other candidates were released immediately in an apparent effort to negate the earlier stories.

Organizers said Cruz is now forever banned from sponsoring future pageants.  They did not say whether “sponsorships” by other individuals who may have been the subject of previous complaints will be reviewed.  If Cruz was audacious enough, who’s to say there were no precedent cases he plans to invoke as templates should a formal probe materialize?

Gender sensitivity is key to prevention

Organizers must also consider giving their team managers and even female members of the Philippine National Police tasked to look after candidates an orientation on gender sensitivity.

Their mere presence in events leading to the big night was obviously not enough. Cruz already found a way to separate chaperones from the contestants at one point. Was that not dereliction of duty?

May we suggest that if a candidate indicates discomfort of any kind, organizers should consider her complaint a serious matter instead of dismissing it? And not use the presence of team managers, et al to deny that sexual harassment took place?

An incident is considered harassment if a contestant says she does not welcome someone’s behavior, gestures, invitation, etc. No ifs or buts.

The woman decides what she is comfortable or not comfortable with.  No one else can insist she is safe when she feels she is not.

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