Squabbling badminton leaders each insist on right to vote at POC election

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Nov 26 2020 09:12 PM

The Philippine Olympic Committee general assembly on Thursday said it would allow the Philippine Tennis Association and the Philippine Badminton Association Inc. Smash Pilipinas to vote during the POC polls on Friday, despite issues besetting the respective national sports associations. 

The decision was made during an online meeting attended by the majority of the 54 regular voting members -- 51 national sports associations and 3 individuals – and POC electoral committee chairperson Atty. Teddy Kalaw IV. 

Rio Olympic silver medalist Hidylin Diaz, who is currently training in Malaysia and mailed in her sealed vote as a representative of the POC Athletes Commission, was among the few who did not attend the meeting, eve of the POC polls.

Two-time Olympic Games veteran Jessie Khing Lacuna, also a member of the POC Athletes Commission, was, however, present during the discussion over the POC voters list released by POC secretary-general Atty. Ed Gastanes last Nov. 10. 

International Olympic Committee Executive Board member Mikaela “Mikee” Cojuangco-Jaworski informed the POC of the suspension of PHILTA, led by Atty. Antonio Cablitas, by the International Tennis Federation last Nov. 21.

Gastanes disclosed to the POC members present that they still had had not received any official ITF correspondence regarding the issue.

The POC sec-gen also explained that the Cablitas-led PHILTA retained its voting rights since it remained a full-pledged regular member of the POC, which was not disputed by any of the members present. 

POC president and Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino, who is seeking reelection, is being challenged by archery chief and POC executive board member Atty. Clint Aranas for the POC’s top position in the Friday election.

What took the general assembly longer to decide on was who would vote to represent the bowling federation, after former Vice-President Jojo Binay wrote the POC secretariat last Monday, saying he remained the president of the PBA and “will physically appear in the venue” and cast his vote.

PBA secretary-general Epok Quimpo, who was present during the meeting, maintained that former Negros Occidental congressman Albee Benitez was the legitimate PBA president based on the NSA’s current Securities and Exchange Commission registration.

Quimpo noted that Binay was the “vice president” in the SEC registration and under its present leadership set-up, reiterating that unless told otherwise Benitez would cast the vote for the PBA.

Gastanes, who came in as POC secretary general in September 2019 following the election of Tolentino as the new POC president on July 28, 2019, said the voters’ list last Nov. 10 was based on the general information sheet furnished by the PBA in Feb. 2019.

Squash federation head Robert Bachmann had disputed the validity of that list since Gastanes did it allegedly without the scrutiny and approval of the POC Executive Board as in previous POC elections.

Despite the misgivings of POC chairman Steve Hontiveros, who also served as secretary general for 14 years under ex-POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr., the general assembly decided to resolve the impasse by instructing the PBA to decide who would vote “internally.”

Hontiveros, however, warned that if neither party could agree “then none of them might be able to vote.”

Binay had earlier written Valeriano “Bones” Floro, POC membership commission chairman, last Nov. 11, asserting that he “was elected president of the Philippine Badminton Association organized under existing laws and duly recognized as a regular member of the Philippine Olympic Committee.”

The former vice president also alleged he was never notified “of any election of officers of the PBA in 2017 and 2018 to the present.”

Hontiveros said this matter could have been resolved if there had been a POC observer when Benitez was elected, which apparently was not done.

Floro and Gastanes said they could not recall having the record of Benitez’s election with a POC observer present in the POC secretariat files.

This had been a regular POC requirement approved by the general assembly in validating the polls of NSAs, Hontiveros said.

“This has been our rules since I was secretary general so we could resolve issues like this,” said Hontiveros, who was inclined to recognize Binay as the representative to cast the vote for the NSA.

Chess chief Rep. Prospero Pichay, who is running as a executive board member on the ticket of Tolentino, had earlier motioned that the body approve Hontiveros’ suggestion.

But it was Tolentino who said that the POC chairman could not unilaterally decide on the matter, prompting the POC members in deciding with the compromise solution.

Kalaw said that should both PBA camps appear on election day “we hope to resolve the matter then and there.”

“Well, this promises to be an exciting election,” quipped the elecom chairperson before suspending the meeting that lasted over two hours.