Philippine Swimming, Inc. president Lailani Velasco (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Philippine Swimming, Inc. (PSI) on Monday denied allegations of poor governance that led to its non-recognition by FINA, the world governing body for swimming.

In a statement, the PSI Board of Trustees said it is appealing the decision and is requesting that its president, Lailani Velasco, "be given access to complaints that were filed and given the opportunity to respond to the same in accordance with the FINA Constitution".

"The Board of Trustees (BOT) has always respected and fully abided by the FINA Constitution and directives of FINA. However, with all due respect, the BOT views 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 first been informed and cause of complaints against it, and be given the opportunity to respond to the charges lodged before FINA. This principle is consistent with the FINA Constitution itself which states that before any sanction is meted out, the member federation must be given an opportunity to exercise the right to be heard (C.12.9)," the statement said.

It added that when Velasco met with Asian Swimming Federation secretary general Taha Suleiman Al Kishry at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in BGC, Taguig City on Nov. 22 to discuss the allegations against PSI, "Mr. 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".

The FINA emailed Velasco a letter dated Dec. 3 and signed by executive director Brent Nowicki, informing her about the withdrawal of recognition to the PSI Board members and the implementation of a stabilization committee composed of Philippine Olympic Committee legal counsel, lawyer Wharton Chan and deputy secretary general Valeriano “Bones” Floro and Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) senior vice president for corporate services group Arrey Perez to run the PSI’s day-to-day operations.

"We understand that FINA has the power to determine whether or not there is a basis to warrant the appointment of a stabilization committee. However, in light of the manner by which the supposed investigation was conducted, we believe that the report presented to the FINA was not an accurate picture of the true state of Philippine swimming," the PSI statement said.

"While PSI was not specifically informed of the incidents and circumstances allegedly proving 'inter alia poor governance principles,' we 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 would attest to," the statement added.

"In this regard, we are respectfully appealing the decision of the FINA Bureau as stated in the letter dated December 3, 2022," the statement concluded.

Meanwhile, champion swimmer Eric Buhain welcomed FINA's move to fix the PSI leadership to unify the swimming community.

"I wholeheartedly welcome the FINA action on this matter, and my over-enthusiasm should be forgiven as I still see myself as a Filipino athlete who competes foremost for God and our country," Buhain, who was named Best Male Athlete during the 1991 Manila SEA Games, said in a statement.

"I thanked the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission for supporting the FINA initiative to save the sport that is very dear to me," added Buhain, who formed the Congress of Philippine Aquatics, Inc. (COPA) with Olympian Pinky Brosas, Chito Rivera, Richard Luna, Darren Evangelista and Joel Esquivel.

"This is a tap on the shoulder for Filipino athletes and for Philippine swimming as a whole. Now that FINA is fixing the leadership in PSI, there is no reason why we cannot achieve what we have been wanting, which is unity in the swimming community," said the current Batangas 1st District Representative and former PSC chairman. (PNA)