The new sports reform group, composed of at least four national sports associations (NSAs) disenfranchised by the previous Philippine Olympic Committee administration, is considering legal action against their persecutors.
Calling themselves “Reform Philippine Sports” (RP Sports), the officials of the erstwhile NSAs for dragon boat (Philippine Dragonboat Federation or PSBF), bowling (Philippine Bowling Congress or PBC), volleyball (Philippine Volleyball Federation or PVF) and table tennis (Table Tennis Association of the Philippines or TATAP) have banded together to demand change in the country’s top sports organization.
In a joint statement, the four associations claim that their removal from the POC began in 2008, after then-president Peping Cojuangco won a second term over shooting president Art Macapagal by only two votes.
The expelled groups claim that it was an act of revenge on them for voting for Macapagal, the POC incumbents at the time replaced PDBF in 2011, PVF in 2015, and TATAP and PBC in 2016.
“All four disenfranchised NSAs have certain things in common. One, all these NSAs did not vote for Cojuangco during the 2008 POC Presidential Election. Two, all the personalities who formed the new NSAs were handpicked by Cojuangco and not independently elected, thereby putting in place pro-Cojuangco puppets. Three, the removal of the NSAs concerned did not go through the POC’s General Assembly (GA),” the statement read.
“The POC by-laws require that a 3/4 vote is needed in the GA in order to expel a sitting NSA. The removal of the four NSAs without the GA vote is therefore in gross violation of the POC By-laws under ‘Grounds for Expulsion’. Four, all four disenfranchised NSAs have the support of their respective International Federations (IFs) which the POC refuses to honor. Five, all four replacement NSAs have performed miserably in the recent Asian Games, clearly demonstrating how dirty sports politics and the old ‘bata-bata’ system can ruin a sport, and Philippine sports in general,” the statement continued.
“We have been in contact with the new POC membership committee leadership for a year already,” explained lead convenor, retired general Charly Holganza, who has organized international dragonboat races. “Initially, the dialogue was positive. But when we went back, their tone suddenly changed. We felt something funny was going on, because nothing has happened. We’re considering taking legal action to hold everyone responsible accountable.”
In the case of dragon boat, RP Sports called a “blatant lie” Cojuangco’s claim that the International Olympic Committee insisted the PDBF join the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation. For PVF, a leadership dispute opened the door for a new federation to be inserted into the POC ranks. The other two sports claimed that they were usurped and replaced for no concrete reason, and without due process.
“There is no reason why PBC should not be the NSA for bowling,” said Jerry Mallillin, president of PBC. “We did not commit any infractions, and we were never accused of anything. We were betrayed by one of our own officials, who has also been usurping other sports. The POC General Assembly never voted us out.”
In the statement, the group also complained that, in more than a year in power, the new POC Board , specifically membership committee chair Robert Bachmann of squash, has not resolved any of these disputes. RP Sports is also mulling adding to their legal action current POC officials who may not have been involved with their removal, but are stonewalling their reinstatement.
“We are raising this issue for the public to know. With the SEA Games coming very soon, it is imperative that the public be made aware of the problems besetting Philippine sports. We need to do a massive clean-up within the POC – and by extension, their long-developed mafia connections within the PSC – to remove the vestiges of old decadent systems that hamper sports development. We need for President Vargas to have a strong, supportive team that can institute the needed reforms in the POC. Constitutional amendments need to be pushed to remove the protectionist stance of the old boys’ club. We need the POC to resolve major issues in membership, etc. We need new leaders to infuse new innovative ideas in running the show,” the statement continued.
“The ways of the old mafia have not worked. It is time for new leaders, new policies, new ideas to come and make things work. And if President Vargas does nothing about this, we will hold him accountable as well, for ultimately he is responsible for what his POC does or fails to do.” The group claims to have received feelers from other NSAs who wish to help them achieve reinstatement into the POC.