May 26, 2018, 4:15 am
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Int’l swim body, POC lock horns over Velasco

THE International Swimming Federation and the Philippine Olympic Committee are on a collision course over the status of newly-elected Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lani Velasco.

While the international swimming body recognized the election of Velasco as PSI president in polls held last Feb. 18 at the Manila Golf Club, the POC general assembly, following the unanimous endorsement of the POC Executive board, yesterday refused to recognize her election.

The POC Executive board earlier held a meeting and unanimously adopted the recommendation of taekwondo chief Robert Aventajadop, the chairman of the POC Arbitration and Disputes Commission, not to recognize Velasco, based on the commission’s findings.

Aventajado noted that the PSI violated its own constitution and by-laws during the Feb. 18 poll that was attended by former POC secretary general Atty. Simeone Rivera as an observer.

Aventajado also recommended the suspension of PSI officials from all POC-related activities and the Olympic body form a “caretaker body” to oversee the affairs of the association. 

The POC acted on complaint filed by former PSI board members Akiko Thomson-Guevarra, Ral Rosario, Pinky Brosas and Eddie Ledesma, who questioned the legitimacy of the presidency of Velasco. She had been appointed by former PSI president Mark Joseph as secretary general three years ago.  

Chess president Cong. Prospero Pichay Jr. and athletics chief Philip Ella Juico took the floor, invoking the autonomy of National Sports Associations, over the issue of a “caretaker body,” but their views were overruled by the majority in the first general assembly meeting held under new POC president Ricky Vargas at the Meralco multi-purpose hall in Pasig City. 

PSI legal counsel Glenn Tuason, speaking on behalf of the NSA, tried to explain the PSI stand but POC chairman and Rep. Bambol Tolentino, who presided over the affair, refused to give him the floor because he was not a duly-recognized PSI official.

Present was Reina Suarez, who was appointed by Velasco as secretary general following her election as PSI president.  

The POC decision came four days after Asia Swimming Federation secretary Taha Kishry of Oman formally wrote POC secretary general Pato Gregorio expressing his concern over the matter, despite moves by FINA and the ASF recognizing Velasco’s election. 

The content of the letter was not disclosed or discussed during the general assembly, but copies were furnished to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, head of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu, and FINA first vice president and Director General Husain Al Mussalam, who is also the OCA technical director.

Malaya-Business Insight, however, got a copy of the letter that read: “AASF as the governing body of aquatic sports in Asia under the umbrella of the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) and Olympic Council of Asia has taken the initiative to settle this dispute and advised the PSI to hold a General Congress (GC) and election for a new set of board members which has been long overdue.

“(The) PSI has provided the minutes of the said meeting as well as the recommendation of the POC representative that the GC was held in accordance to the PSI constitution and by-laws without violating any clause thereof.

“Subsequently, the AASF and FINA have given their respective letters recognizing the validity of the election and the new PSI president and Board of Directors.”

Kishry pointed out that “it is, however, worth mentioning that it came to our attention that POC has been interfering with the affairs of PSI and threatening their (sic) autonomy by trying to repudiate the results of the election and impugning the letters (of recognition) given by AASF and FINA.”

The AASF sec-gen said: “Please be advised that this is deemed to be in direct breach to the FINA Constitution C.S.8.2.6 that ‘the members of national federations manage their affairs independently and not be influenced and interfered with by third parties.”

Kisrhy warned that “non-observance of this rule will be sanctioned by AASF/FINA, and might result in the suspension of PSI, which is the only recognized aquatic body in your country.”

He added the AASF wants the POC to “allows the result of the election to stand and desist from constraining the activities and decision-making of the PSI.”

Kishry hinted the POC’s refusal to let matters stand might have a detrimental effect on the country’s staging of the SEA Games swimming competitions. 

“I am very concerned with this matter considering the Philippines will be hosting the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and is currently liaising with the AASF for the construction of new aquatic facilities, which will be used for the aforementioned event,” he noted. “I am also afraid that this disagreement might impede the organization of the different aquatic disciplines for the Games.”
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