“With all due respect; It's an abuse of power”

Photo: Jomar Galvez/Flickr

24.05.2017

By Lars Andersson
Corruption has been haunting Philippine sports for decades. The latest example is in volleyball, where an intense in-fight with all means has left the old federation benched internationally.

On 5 May 2017 the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) decided to uphold the suspension of the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) and affiliate the Larong Volleyball SA Pilipinas Inc. (LVPI) as the only Philippine volleyball organisation.

Furthermore, the FIVB board of administration will propose to the FIVB World Congress in 2018 that PVF is permanently expelled and replaced by LVPI.

The decision, which came after an intern FIVB ad hoc committee had looked into the case, puts a provisional end to a hard-fought dispute about the right to represent volleyball in the Philippines with threads to international sports politics.

However, the letter of information sent to the PVF and LVPI presents no reasons for the decision. The FIVB refers to ‘Article 2.2.7.2.’ in the FIVB Constitution 2014, but this article only states that it is up to congress to define the conditions and procedures for a national federation’s (NF) affiliation with the FIVB and that if an NF fails to meet these conditions, the NF “will lose all of its right until such time as the conditions of affiliation are met”.

But in a conversation with Play the Game, Stephen Bock, FIVB Legal Affairs Manager, now refers to ‘Article 1.3.4.(b)’ in the FIVB General Regulations 2016, that declares; “the application (for affiliation, ed.) shall be accompanied by: certificate from the national Olympic committee (NOC) recognised by the international Olympic committee (IOC).” He points further to ‘Article2.2.1.’ in the FIVB Constitution, that stipulates that a member federation “must be legally constituted and recognised by the sports authorities of their countries”.

“The suspension of the PVF is an automatic consequence of the Philippine Olympic Committee’s (POC) decision to withdraw PVF’s recognition and to recognise the LVPI instead as governing body for volleyball in the Philippines,” Stephen Bock says to Play the Game.

An argument that puzzles PVF:

“Doesn't the PVF, being a member, deserve some courtesy from the FIVB? Would it be hard for the FIVB to respectfully ask the POC any legal or constitutional reasons or references; why this change occurs,” Rustico C. Camangian, managing director of PVF and former national player and coach in the Philippines, says in a comment to Play the Game.

“Would it be that hard for the FIVB to call its family member (PVF, ed.) and ask, why they received that kind of message from POC,” Rustico C. Camangian further asks.

Payback time in Philippine sports?
Because that is exactly the point; the POC’s withdrawal of any support to the PVF. In January 2015, the state of Philippine volleyball developed dramatically, when ‘strong man’ in Philippine sports, president of POC José ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr., wrote a letter to the president of FIVB, Dr. Ary S. Graca Filho, with the following words:

“We are communicating with you in support of our earlier emailed certification regarding our provisional grant of recognition to LVPI as the only and duly recognised national sports association for volleyball. Presently the PVF has not served the best interest of Philippine volleyball for years. We trust that LVPI will merit your recognition as the POC has granted them recognition to enable Philippine volleyball to move forward soonest.”

The letter made the FIVB react promptly. The PVF was suspended, without any hearing and without giving the federation a chance to defend itself against the allegations. Instead José ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. installed the LVPI with his henchman and first vice president, Mr. José A. Romasanta, as the president of this new federation, while POC’s second vice president, Jeff Tamayo, became the treasurer of LVPI. Legal counsel of POC, Ramon Malinao, got the job as legal counsel of LVPI, and POC consultant, Benjamin Espiritu, was now the managing director of LVPI.

Some will say this was payback time in Philippine sports. José ‘Peping’ Cojuango Jr. has been ruling Philippine sports since 1 January 2005 despite persistent allegations of corruption and friendship services (read more in Play the Game’s article on Philippine sports: It’s all about money, power and politics, ed.), and the PVF was no supporter of José ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. during the 2008 and 2012 elections for the POC presidency. Furthermore, José ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. has a power base in international sports as a president of a national Olympic committee with personal relations to leading politicians in the IOC, FIVB and the Asian Volleyball Confederation, especially FIVB honorary life president Jizhong Wei.

Play the Game has tried to get in contact with Mr. José ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr., Mr. José A. Romasanta and the LVPI, but none of them have replied.

Disregard of transparency and courtesy
On the other hand, the PVF will speak. The organisation is shocked by the FIVB decision:

“To the PVF’s amazement and utter surprise the FIVB succumbed to the whims and caprices of the POC without even bothering to undertake an immediate and unbiased inquiry or investigation,” Rustico C. Camangian says.

“With all due respect to the people and organisations involved, it is an abuse of power and authority,” Rustico C. Camangian states underlining that the PVF complied with all requirements from the intern FIVB committee.

“After six months of hard work and sheer perseverance by the PVF to comply, the FIVB has rendered a decision without even bothering to state the reasons.”

According to Camangian, this case is an example of how international federations are able to ‘abuse’ sports federations.

“It’s a complete disregard of civility, professionalism, transparency and courtesy for all people and organisations involved. We believe that the case is not only confined locally for PVF, but relevant for national sports federations around the world,” Camangian says.

“This is not only about a small national sports federation somewhere in remote Asian country. This is a case about abuse of NOC and international federation’s mandate over any national sports federation without undertaking or subjecting itself to established statutes,” the PVF director says.

Big money creates ‘ugly’ people
Philippine volleyball has, as all sports with few exceptions in the Philippines, been haunted by power struggles, politics, corruption and personal aspirations. After basketball, volleyball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, and the leading leagues easily gather 20,000 spectators to an important match, in a country where the majority of the population can not afford to buy tickets to a game.

The network ABS-CBN broadcasts prime time from the Shakey’s Volleyball League and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Volleyball Tournament, while the network TV5 has the TV rights to the Philippine Super Liga. All are ‘private’ leagues, but originally supported by the PVF. Besides that the PVF has in recent years been able to get long-term support from big companies to both the elite and the grassroots programs. And today, the PVF still has comprehensive volleyball programs all over the Philippines.

Philippine volleyball has, in other words, grown rapidly since the millennium driven by big sponsors, growing spectator crowds and television audience putting more money into the sport. And with money came intra-corporate disputes and power struggles. Presidents wandered off, and key figures in the PVF were more committed to gaining money than developing volleyball, according to several sources in the volleyball community in the Philippines. However as late as 19 November 2014 the FIVB handed a certificate that stated:

“We hereby confirm that the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) has been affiliated to the FIVB since 1951. The FIVB recognises this federation as the legitimate and exclusive authority, under the leadership of its president, Karl Geoffrey L. Chan II and its secretary general, Dr. Rustico C. Camangian, to govern volleyball and beach volleyball in the Philippines.”

Despite this statement, FIVB suddenly had another opinion two month later, in January 2015.

Time will tell
While the PVF, LVPI and POC are now waiting for the FIVB congress in October 2018 in the Dominican Republic, the PVF has taken NOC President José ‘Peping’ Cojuangco Jr. to Philippine court. Preliminary judge Achilles A. A. C. Bulauitan granted the motion on 15 May 2017, and the trial is set for 9 August 2017.

“We hope that justice will be rendered for PVF in local court,” Rustico C. Camangian explains.

According to Stephen Bock, the FIVB will follow the legal case in the Philippines closely:

“We will immediately inform the Board of Administration and the FIVB Congress about any change of the situation in the Philippines,” he says to Play the Game.

Another step for the PVF could be going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), if the decision at the FIVB Congress in October 2018 goes against the organisation:

“Going to CAS could be the last resort for PVF, considering the economic requirements of such relief. However, there might be several national sports federations that would be willing to help in this cause,” Rustico C. Camangian says – dreaming of a brighter future for Philippine volleyball:

“As long as there are people willing to make a stand for principles of good governance and genuine patriotism notwithstanding the tremendous and insurmountable odds, then the sun will surely rise for Philippine volleyball. When? I’m praying it will happen in our generation. Time will tell, nonetheless.”

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