A Navy investigation into the service’s former top enlisted recruiter found “sufficient evidence” that Navy Counselor Master Chief Franklin Tiongco sexually harassed a female chief during a drunken 2019 house party, according to a Navy Recruiting Command investigation obtained by Navy Times.
Tiongco was relieved as national chief recruiter in May 2020, and NRC completed its preliminary inquiry that same month.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Tiongco declined comment for this story.
The names of those who spoke with the investigating officer are redacted in the investigation copy provided to Navy Times, so it remains unclear how many people were interviewed.
But the document details a June 2019 house party at a retired chief’s house and “sufficient evidence” that Tiongco sexually harassed a female chief there.
Tiongco and other unidentified individuals were playing an “officers vs. chiefs” game of “Kan Jam,” which involves tossing and deflecting a frisbee into a garbage-can like container.
The female chief was called over and at one point clarified that her boyfriend was not her husband.
One of the Kan Jam players then said she “wasn’t marriage material because she liked [to engage in a sex act],” the investigation states.
”Is that true?” Tiongco chimed in, repeating the name of the act, according to the investigation.
“The group then became boisterous and taunted her,” according to the investigation, which notes the woman was attending the party with her boyfriend and children.
One attendee told the investigator that families were within 15 feet of Tiongco and the Kan Jam players when the comments were made to the woman, and that they “likely heard what was said.”
Tiongco and another individual were “very intoxicated” at the party, and the woman said she was embarrassed by the whole incident and soon left, the investigation states.
A witness to Tiongco’s comments told the investigator he believed the female chief suffered professional consequences following the interaction.
“He stated from all his interaction …with her that she was a strong performer and subject matter expert,” the investigator wrote. “He stated [that] after the incident her EVALS suffered, and she was ranked below a more junior and less experienced Chief during the September ranking cycle.”
Tiongco’s behavior “met the statute in that his comments were directed at (the female sailor) and were sexual in nature, and that his behavior contributed to a hostile work environment as he had routine contact with her in the workplace and was instrumental in her future promotion opportunities,” the investigation states.
The investigation does not specify where the party took place, but service records show Tiongco had been assigned to NRC headquarters in Millington, Tennessee, since 2017 at the time of the incident.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service conducted its own probe into allegations against Tiongco but has yet to provide that record to Navy Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act records request.
Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Patricia Kreuzberger said Tuesday that the NCIS investigation did not result in criminal charges against Tiongco, but NRC officials confirmed he was given nonjudicial punishment.
Officials did not offer further details regarding Tiongco’s NJP by Navy Times’s deadline.
He is set to retire Aug. 31 at the E-9 rank following more than 30 years on active duty, according to NRC officials and service records.
One party attendee said that at one point he witnessed Tiongco and another individual berating another man and “calling him a ‘Mexican,’” and that things got to a point where the man’s wife “approached the group to diffuse the situation and defend him … saying ‘he’s not even Mexican.’”
A person interviewed for the probe said that “NCCM Tiongco exhibited a pattern of behavior over the course of many years that contributed to a hostile work environment.”
The investigating officer also wrote that Tiongco created “a hostile work environment through aggressive, abrasive and bullying behavior over the course of several years.”
“While the majority of his interactions with co-workers were not sexual in nature, when in a social setting at times under the influence of alcohol, he sexually harassed subordinates while also participating in and condoning the inappropriate actions of others,” the investigator wrote.
One female sailor told the investigator that she had “a very limited relationship” with him since 2014 but that her few interactions were “generally hostile,” according to the investigation.
She described Tiongco as having “Napoleon syndrome,” and that he would “frequently berate Senior Enlisted personnel in front of their peers,” the investigation states.
“When she did interact with him in a professional environment, she stated NCCM TIONGCO routinely made ‘smart ass comments’ and on one particular occasion when she brought up something during a group discussion, he stated, ‘was I talking to you?’” the investigator wrote.
Tiongco was not interviewed as part of the command investigation obtained by Navy Times due to other related investigations.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.