Football leadership challenge hots up in Philippines

The challenge to Philippine Football Federation president Johnny Romualdez is heating up with key opponents attacking him on transparency, professionalism and programming issues. “There is a problem of professionalism ... Romualdez does not follow the rules of the PFF itself,” Laguna Football Association president Jun Pacificador told the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum in Manila on Tuesday. Joining Pacificador in the session were former PFF president Honesto Isleta and National Capital Region Football Association president Pocholo Borromeo.

Pacificador cited Romualdez’s abrupt cancellation of the National Futsal Championship that Laguna was set to host in December last year as an example of his unilateral decision-making. “After Johnny assured two months before the tournament that it would push through, he suddenly tells us that the event has been cancelled. We were ready to host and had already spent our resources for the competition,” he said as quoted by The Manila Times. The scrapping of the national squad to the Asian Football Confederation's Women's Under-19 tournament in January was another sign of the PFF’s inefficiency, he said

Pacificador also noted the case of a Laguna football official suspended for 18 months by the PFF for unsportsmanlike conduct for attacking a player with a knife in a tournament. “When you are suspended, you are not supposed to have any contact with the PFF or any other football association. And yet we learned that the PFF appointed him as an adviser for youth development, with an allowance to boot, while he was still suspended,” he said.

Pocholo Borromeo said Pacificador and several other PFF members would press for the accounting of the sports associations’ books, which, he said, Romualdez had already twice declined. The PFF reportedly spent P90 million over the past years and had earmarked a P40-million budget in 2006. “All we want to ask is where did the money go? We do not see any evidence how that much money was spent,” he said.

Borromeo was sad to note that in men’s football, the Philippines ranked 42 out of 45 in Asia and was 191 out of 205 soccer-playing countries in the world, despite the money being spent by the PFF. “We are the oldest football federation in Asia that will mark a century next year, yet this is how low we have become,” Borromeo said.

The Malaya News yesterday reported that Romualdez was not available for comment but today published a letter from the PFF president under the fiery headline, Long live Philippine football, long live the PFF. In it, Romualdez called his opponents "a few recalcitrant provincial association members" who are "set to destroy Philippine Football and the PFF by sensationalizing whatever fault they can, real or perceived." He challenged them to stand for election at the PFF's regular congress in November 2007 where "anyone nominated and seconded for president may run". He said that an Extraordinary Congress could also be called upon request of at least two-thirds of PFF's members and the president can be removed if the Board of Governors proposes such to the Congress. But "no such proposal exists," he stated.

He said he had a meeting two days prior with Pacificador, National Capital Region FA representative Ramon Jose and and Rizal FA president and PFF legal adviser Emigdio Tanjuatco III at which "Jose and Pacificador agreed that their request to audit PFF’s books would be granted when the revocation of their SEC registration is lifted." He said that the PFF had explained that an internal audit was being conducted by three provincial association presidents of the highest integrity and that LFA and NCRFA could have these presidents ask whatever questions they wanted concerning the PFF’s finances. "It was also agreed (or so it seems) that all should refrain from using media to air grievances ... since doing so would not be good for Philippine Football especially while the World Cup is on," he said.

"If unsatisfied with the above, any member may request for their own audit which will be granted for as long as such is done within reasonable limits. Despite the opinions of some lawyers that the PFF should in fact be the one to audit the provincial associations since we are the ones giving them money (and not the other way around), the PFF will open its books to all qualified," he said.

Regarding the NCRFA's "threats of filing estafa charges," Romualdez said that was their option. "If the courts decide that they have a legal identity despite the revocation of their SEC registration that is the option of the courts. If the courts decide that there is estafa that is their option. But it is also our option to insist that the recalcitrants work on the lifting of these revocations before opening our books to them. It is also our option to name a reasonable time and date and to define reasonable procedures for any audit," he concluded.

See also: New leadership dispute hits Philippines Federation (10 June)