The Rape of Philippine Volleyball

In 2015, the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) was removed from the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) as a recognized national sports federation. Based on the recommendation of Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), under then President Peping Cojuangco, and endorsed by the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC), this was another blow to an already deteriorating environment in Philippine sports at that time.

Despite the PVF’s long standing status as the Philippines’ recognized governing body for volleyball, FIVB accepted the recommendations of the POC and AVC hook, line and sinker, and acted swiftly to have it removed. It denied the PVF an opportunity to defend itself against the malicious allegations made by the POC. The FIVB failed to grant the PVF a hearing where PVF could have answered the allegations and foil the malicious intentions of the old POC.

It will be recalled that years earlier, the PVF had been one of the National Sports Association (NSA) that had opposed Peping Cojuangco in his bid for reelection as President of the POC. Clearly, by eliminating the PVF then, Peping had solidified his hold on Philippine sports and removed one more opposition among the NSAs. Indeed, the stench of dirty sports politics was all over in this dastardly move. (Pls read: The Fight to Liberate Philippine Sports Continues)

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The wily Peping Cojuangco engineered the demise of Philippine Sports during the dark decade of his term. (Inquirer.net)

In moving for the ouster of the PVF, Peping had bypassed the POC constitution by-laws. It needed a 3/4 vote from the 46-member General Assembly to legitimize its elimination. The rights of the PVF as an independent national association were further violated by the FIVB with its swift disenfranchisement, a move that clearly manifested the influence Cojuangco had wielded over international sports bodies as a result of his long stay as POC head.

Due process and fair treatment were also denied by the FIVB Disciplinary, Appeals and Ethics Panels. The Board of Administration (BA), on the other hand, likewise ignored the pleas of the PVF and instead, immediately granted recognition to a new Philippine volleyball federation endorsed by Peping, the League of Volleyball in the Philippines Inc (LVPI).

In removing the PVF, FIVB violated its very own constitution in regard the autonomy and protection of a national federation. Its decision on the arbitrary action of the POC without the General Assembly vote is definitely suspect.

The malicious move of Peping’s POC to create a new volleyball federation and install its high-ranking officials as officers of the new federation shows bias and a clear conflict of interest. Peping’s lackey and POC 1st Vice-President, Joey Romasanta, became the president of the new federation. Romasanta, already the head of the Philippine Karatedo Federation (PKF), was awarded a second NSA. This is another questionable move as sports association heads are supposed to focus on 1 sport alone in order to be truly effective. There is a provision in the POC Rules and Regulations that state that no National Sports Association (NSA) head can assume leadership over a second sport. This was clearly violated.

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Joey Romasanta, already a controversial figure in Karatedo, was appointed LVPI President. (Tempo.ph)

Other members close to Peping joined in to support the rape of the PVF. Atty. Ramon Malinao, legal counsel of POC, became the legal counsel of the new federation. POC 2nd Vice-President Jeff Tamayo became the treasurer, while POC Consultant Benjamin Espiritu became the Managing Director of the new federation. As for its membership, the LVPI has nothing to show after its hasty creation. (They called for an election this week, but couldn’t muster even 5 members.) 

Clearly, the POC had removed a national volleyball federation only to have its own people handle volleyball in the Philippines. Propriety dictates that the POC should have tapped non-partisan and highly qualified individuals to run the new federation. This would erase doubts concerning any ulterior motive. But the growing popularity of women’s volleyball has had greedy individuals salivating for a piece of the action. And Peping’s naughty hands could be seen all over the place.

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Members of Peping’s sports mafia. (inquirer.net)

With the recent removal of Peping Cojuangco as POC President, it is imperative that the new POC take positive action to rectify this grave injustice. The lack of a singular leadership in volleyball has caused confusing signals and an annoying lack of direction, leading to overlapping schedules, a vicious race for talents, and an equally despicable race to gain recognition from the FIVB.

Talks are rife that the Philippines will be sending a women’s volleyball team to the Asian Games in Indonesia late this year. Despite the lack of credentials, the lack of experience and training, and the utter lack of time to organize a decent team, the LVPI has jumped the gun by volunteering to organize this ill-advised participation. They convinced CDM Richard Gomez to champion their cause, in an obvious attempt to gain popular support in order to gain legitimacy as the proper NSA in the contested sport.

Peping suppressed volleyball’s participation in the previous SEA Games when the PVF was handling volleyball. This left us lagging behind while the likes of Thailand and Vietnam developed their national programs steadily. As soon as the LVPI took over however, the mood has been to send our teams – ready or not – abroad to gain maximum experience in international volleyball forays. It is a complete turn-around to the policy taken when volleyball was branded as anti-Peping.

The new POC must now work to rectify the damages done to Philippine Volleyball through the FIVB. It must not allow the LVPI to handle the organization of the women’s volleyball team pending resolution over the question of its legitimacy as the volleyball NSA. If indeed there is no more backing out from the plan to send the women’s volleyball team to the Asian Games (I am totally against it, the funds will be better spent for preparing them for the SEA Games), then the PSC/POC should handle the team themselves, and not the LVPI. The PVF must be given its day before the Judicial Panel where it can fairly defend itself. We hope that the PVF is eventually reinstated as the rightful governing body for volleyball in the country. In the interest of justice and human decency, in the interest of truly propagating the sport, in the interest of weeding out those whose interests are simply to make money from our athletes, Ricky Vargas and the new POC can do no less.

(Special thanks to Eric Dimson for the notes, and ABS-CBN, Rappler, the Philippine Star, Inquirer, Tempo, Volleyverse, Foxsports, and The Guidon for the pictures.)

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