MANILA, Philippines -- A group headed by Ramon Suzara, who was the chief of the organizing committee of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, is questioning the legitimacy of the Philippine Esports Organization (PESO) after it was declared the national sports association (NSA) for esports in the country.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) had welcomed PESO as an associate member, with POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino stressing that the organization had "successfully complied with all the requisites for membership."
PESO gained approval from the POC General Assembly in its meeting last August 29.
In a statement, the National Electronic Sports Federation of the Philippines (NESFP), of which Suzara is president, urged the POC to "reconsider its decision to accept as member any group claiming legitimacy as the NSA for esports."
The NESFP wants the POC to wait until the International Olympic Committee has recognized an international federation for esports. At the moment, the IOC does not recognize any federation for esports, even on a provisional basis.
"On behalf of the NESFP, I urgently seek a reconsideration of your decision to accredit the Philippine eSports Organization [PESO] as an associate member NSA for electronic sports instead of NESFP," Suzara said in a letter dated September 2.
Suzara, who was the chief operating officer of PHISGOC, insists that the International Esports Federation (IESF), of which PESO is a member, is not recognized by the IOC and is also not on the list of the Global Association of International Sports Federations.
"This clearly does not comply with the captioned requirement under POC Membership Rules," he said.
He also points out that the NESFP is recognized by the Global Esports Foundation (GEF) and its continental federation, the Asian Esports Federation (AESF). The AESF is a partner of the Olympic Council of Asia, which managed esports as a demonstration sport in the 2018 Asian Games.
"There is no factual and legal basis for the accreditation of PESO as a POC member," Suzara stressed. "But with the documents the NESFP have presented, and given its experience and outstanding performance in the conduct of the 2019 SEA Games, the NESFP is unquestionably the one eligible for accreditation by the POC."
In his letter, Suzara also claims that it was NESFP that organized and managed the esports competition in the SEA Games, while also selecting and training the athletes for Team Philippines.
In a statement to ABS-CBN News, PESO explained that contrary to Suzara's claim, the esports competition in the 2019 SEA Games was organized not by NESFP but by the Philippine SEA Games Esports Union -- a group that includes both NESFP and the Esports National Association of the Philippines (ESNAP).
PESO member organizations also served key roles to help prepare the 2019 SEA Games Esports Tournament. ESNAP has since merged with PESO, bringing those organizations under one banner.
"ESNAP merged with PESO to create a unified NSA for Philippine esports," said Jane Basas, the head of consumer wireless business at Smart Communications Inc.
"With PESO's member organizations' combined leadership and experience from the SEA Games and their own properties and events, alongside the programs of IESF for global esports development, we are confident that the POC's conferment of associate member status will result in a remarkable change in the development and elevation of Philippine esports," she added.
According to Suzara, the POC has yet to acknowledge their numerous letters or attempts to discuss why the NESFP should be a member of the organization. This, despite sending their letters weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Tolentino is calling for stakeholders of Philippine esports to unite and support PESO as it fulfills its role as the official NSA for esports in the Philippines.
"I urge the practitioners of the sport to rally around the PESO NSA, in order to forge a united and formidable front in international competitions," said Tolentino.
"I congratulate the men and women behind PESO, and exhort them to continue their winning ways that their Team Sibol displayed in the last SEA Games, which they dominated," he added.
"With the legitimacy afforded by their membership in the IESF and now in the POC, I have no doubt the Philippines can look forward to more stellar performances from esports in the near future."
Brian Lim, the president of PESO, said: "We are grateful to the POC in their recognition of PESO and esports. This would help us bring in more support to our fellow Filipinos who are competing globally and bringing glory to the Philippines.
"Together with the IESF and the POC, we are committed to implementing initiatives that truly expand and develop esports in the country," he added.