Democratize swimming

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My idealism had sometimes gotten the best of me.

Once I led the National Athletes Philippines to rally against injustices committed to them — from physical harm to pilfering of allowances to sexual abuse.

It was just too much to bear and I was unintentionally thrust at the forefront of that fight. I was with 1,000 of the national athletes and coaches who marched to Malacañang.

Once we got there, it was sheer coincidence that President Fidel Ramos was passing through the same gate where we held our rally. He called us to sit down with him. He listened and changes were made and justice was served.

Today, I again stand with my brothers and sisters in swimming to correct the injustices done to thousands of disenfranchised swimmers, coaches and teams across the archipelago.

Together with my co-Olympian swimmers Ral Rosario, Akiko Thomson-Guevara and Carlos “Pinky” Brosas, we came together to ask the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to finally end the impasse in Philippine swimming by having a genuine, all-inclusive National Congress to elect a truly national body to represent Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI). The call is made together with the legitimate and SEC-recognized Board of Trustees of the PSI, including Louie Mangahis, Teresita Sy, Dale Law, Eduardo Ledesma, Rodney Baretto and Leon Go. Our legal defense team is likewise headed by another bemedaled swimmer in lawyer Marilou Arzaga-Mendoza, who won a bronze medal in the 1970 Asian Games.

Our request is for the POC to allow all stakeholders in swimming from all walks of life, regardless of social status or affiliation, to be able to apply for membership to PSI as the Olympic Charter mandates. From there, the POC is welcome to come up with a committee to scrutinize the list in line with the Olympic Charter of Equality. Once satisfied, it can call for an election.

As interim president elected by the Board of Trustees last March 2017, Ral said he will respect any result of such election as long as it includes the stakeholders in swimming. He said he will welcome Velasco if she wishes to run.

Velasco called for a National Congress at the Manila Yacht Club today to ratify her dubious claim as president of PSI without informing any of the legitimate Board of Trustees of PSI.

This is very alarming because PSI by-laws say that in absence of the chairman and the president, only one of the four vice-presidents can call and preside any PSI board meeting. Velasco is not among them.

It is for the benefit of every stakeholder to know that past President Mark Joseph abandoned his post since the last quarter of 2016. He was officially removed by the PSI Board of Trustees last March 2017. According to our lawyer, since Velasco supposedly derived her power from Joseph in the latter part of 2017, his removal from the Board effectively extinguished any authority she supposedly earned from him.

The FINA also only recognizes PSI, the official Philippine swimming body affiliated with it and not the individual sitting as its president.

In respect of the POC, we are still hoping the POC sees our merit. We simply want to democratize the sport and allow everyone access to the national swimming team.

We all hear the clamor by a greater majority of these disenfranchised swimmers ostracized by the fraudulent PSI.

What are your thoughts?

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