PH swimming chief Velasco appeals FINA decision on PSI board

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Dec 06 2022 09:16 AM

The leadership of Philippine Swimming Inc. during its National Congress in April. Handout photo.
The leadership of Philippine Swimming Inc. during its National Congress in April. Handout photo.

Where was the formal complaint or complaints and what were its contents?

This was the query raised by the Philippine Swimming Inc.’s board led by president Lailani “Lani” Velasco as it appealed Monday to the International Swimming Federation, the world swimming body known by its French acronym FINA, its decision to effectively withdraw its recognition of the PSI leadership. 

"We are respectfully appealing the decision of the FINA Bureau, as stated in the letter dated Dec. 3, and in addition we respectfully request that PSI, through Ms. Lailani M. Velasco, be given access to the complaints that were filed and be given the opportunity to respond to the same in accordance with the FINA Constitution," the PSI said in a statement.

The PSI was responding to the Dec. 3 letter of FINA executive director Brent Nowicki, invoking the FINA charter, of establishing a “stabilization committee” after the FINA Bureau, the organization’s executive body, “discussed various complaints received by the FINA Office concerning matters of inter alia poor governance principles within your National Federation.”

Cited was article Article 10.6 of the FINA constitution and by-laws stating that “the Bureau may under exceptional circumstances appoint a stabilization committee to the extent the executive body of a Member fails to adhere to practices of good governance, transparency, financial accountability and stability, participation in FINA events, or puts at risk the organization and development of Aquatics in their country.”

Nowicki’s correspondence was furnished to the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission, according to a POC release that announced the development last Sunday.

FINA appointed Philippine Olympic Committee legal counsel Atty. Wharton Chan, who was addressed as a member of the “Philippine, Legal Department,” in the FINA memo, POC deputy secretary general Valeriano “Bones” Floro and Arrey Perez, Bases Conversion Development Authority senior vice president 

Besides being the POC legal counsel, Chan is the secretary-general of the kickboxing association led by Sen. Francis Tolentino, the older brother of POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.

Perez is expected to play a prominent role in the hosting of the Asian Age Group Swimming Championships set from November 23 to December 1, 2023 jointly organized by the Asian Swimming Federation and the Philippine Olympic Committee at New Clark City Aquatic Center, which is managed by the BCDA, in Capas, Tarlac,

Together with Tolentino, AASF secretary general Taha Al Kishry, a FINA Bureau member, was in the country last month to formally launch the international age group meet, and, as Nowicki noted in his letter to PSI, personally notified Velasco about the FINA move. 

The PSI board claimed that it had no prior knowledge of complaints filed against it and underscored "with grave concern the manner and conduct of the said investigation made by FINA.

"Requirements of due process, fairness and equity demand that, at the very least, PSI, through the Board of Trustees, should have been informed of the nature and cause of complaint against it and be given the opportunity to respond to the charges lodged before FINA." 

Citing due process as well as Article 12.9 of the FINA constitution, the board pointed out “that before any sanction is meted out, the member federation must be given an opportunity to exercise the right to be heard.”

The PSI board likewise alleged that “Al Kishry did not disclose the nature and specifics of the complaints, including the identity of the complainant/s, thereby giving Ms.Velasco no real opportunity to respond. It would have also been appropriate if written communication of such investigation was relayed to PSI for the BOT to be duly informed.

Whatever the complaint was, it added that “we believe that the report presented to FINA was not an accurate picture of the true state of Philippines swimming," the board stressed. “While PSI was not specifically informed of the incidents or circumstances allegedly proving 'inter alia (among other things) poor governance principles,' we respectfully believe that there is no truth to any of the allegations of said poor governance principles in managing the affairs of the organization.

"On the contrary, great progress is continuously being achieved by PSI for its membership as its members would attest." 

Under Article 12.13.1 of the same FINA statutes, “a Member (federation), individual or Continental Organization sanctioned by the Executive may file appeal to the Bureau. The appeal shall be addressed to the Executive Director within twenty-one (21) days from the date of communication of the decision.” 

As a senior management official of the BCDA, a government-owned and controlled corporation, Perez’s appointment to the “stabilization committee” might run into problems considering it could be construed as government intervention into the autonomy of a National Sports Association.

While it recognizes and upholds the government laws of a country, the International Olympic Committee generally frowns on such acts.