Trending on Twitter and the subject of an online petition, GMA morning news co-anchor Arnold Clavio is facing a lot of heat for comments made about the Philippine Azkals on air. Rising to the fifth trending topic on Twitter in the Philippines at the time of this posting, and with GMA Network facing heavy pressure on the Internet, it seems another scandal involving the Azkals is taking some shine away from their fairy-tale run in the AFC Challenge Cup.
Probably the worst offending remark was to suggest that the Azkals, with two members accused of sexual harassment, weren't even Filipino: "Hindi naman kayo Pilipino, nagpapanggap lang kayong kayumanggi, hindi kayo dito lumaki, mahirap iyun" ("You’re not really Filipino, you're only pretending to be brown, you didn't grow up here; that's difficult").
Since their rise to fame, the Azkals have faced these kinds of comments online. Some have pointed to the manner in which many of the players grew up abroad, often calling them half-breeds and demanding more 'local' players; calling for more 'pure' Filipinos, inferring or directly calling the others 'impure.' This distinction between 'pure' Filipinos, half-breeds and foreigners is probably more common than many people give it credit for.
Given the reaction many people made when Matthew Hartmann abandoned the PHL U23 side during the SEA Games, or when Mark Hartmann posted on Twitter that being a substitute was a waste of time, the comments look quite familiar.
The difference in this case, especially to anyone who knows Lexton Moy or Angel Guirado, is that they're very different people. While the Hartmann brothers had publicly made their actions, Moy and Guirado are accused, and until recently, only one side of the story was told until they finally said that the 'B cup' comment was referring to Denis Wolf and that Guirado was wearing shorts and not underwear. A responsible journalist may have done better finding out the real story before commenting on the issue.
What is a Filipino?
The kind of logic behind the racist comments, though, goes to some dark places rather quickly. Godwin's law is a famous argument that suggests the longer an online argument goes on, the more likely it is that someone criticizes something by comparing it to one of Hitler's beliefs. Given the discussion on who is and who is not of 'pure' race, this is probably one of the easier jumps to make.
So of course the Azkals are legally Filipino. In one article generated by the controversy, Allen Faith of Soccercentral.ph notes that under the 1987 Constitution, "A person gets his nationality because of natural phenomenon or ancestry, with the following common provisions: a. He was born in that country, b. At least one of his parents is a citizen of that country."
Giving the examples of Ray Jonsson, as someone born in Cebu, and Angel Guirado, whose mother is Filipina, it is clear that all of the Azkals are Filipino.
Yet, Clavio's point was beyond the legal sense of nationality and to a more cultural sense of national identity.
Kick racism out of football… and out of everywhere else, too
The Azkals have always had critics who have tried to use race as a weapon to tear them down. Following the 2-0 loss to North Korea, several comments followed the match report on GMA News Online, including comments saying, "Stop glamorizing these losers. They are no good. They are not even drafted in their own country" or "In my personal opinion, it is better to lose na full blooded Filipinos ang lumalaban kaysa umi-import ka ng madami e talo pa din." Some comments, better not to be published again, are far more offensive.
Racism is unwelcome anywhere and football has had several campaigns to rid the beautiful game of a very ugly prejudice. The Kick Racism Out of Football campaign particularly helped change attitudes in England, where racism is far less tolerated now than before.
Of course, racism still exists there and wherever it exists, it is the duty of any decent person to take a stand against it.
This new case, of Clavio, is particularly sensitive though, because it was so personalized and public. Directed at two of the Azkals specifically, though inferring some of the others, social media is being dominated by this issue, singularly condemning Clavio.
Clavio’s official statement
In response to some of the criticisms, Clavio tried to put the matter into context and redirect attention to the sexual harassment case, rather than apologize, and made this official statement:
Mga igan, nakakalungkot na may negatibong reaksyon ang naging pahayag ko tungkol sa Philippine Azkals kaugnay ng sexual harassment complaint ni Ms. Cristy Ramos. Wala po akong ganoong intensyon. Ang isyu po rito ay sexual harassment at kung may nagamit man po akong mga salita na hindi angkop, nagpapakumbaba po ako at humihingi ng pang-unawa. Dun naman po sa mga kasama kong nanindigan laban sa sexual harassment, maraming salamat po. Seryoso pong isyu ito na dapat bantayan.