Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The State of Philippine Football: Part Three The 13th President

(In following the events in Philippine football the past three years I've conducted extensive interviews with the people working behind the scenes and have hundreds of facsimiles of documents that have beset the state of the game. What follows is the third installment of a five-part report.)

Part Three: The 13th President
by rick olivares

On November 24, 2007, members of the Philippine Football Federation gathered to elect the 13th President at the Bayview Hotel in Manila.

There were five candidates at the start of the campaign period but on the day of reckoning there were two – Mari Martinez whose dream was to be the top honcho of local football and the National Sports Association’s publicist, Ed Formoso.

There are 32 voting members of the PFF; one for each of the football associations that are scattered across the archipelago. But during the PFF Congress where there were 30 voting members present, only 29 voted. The 30th member, Carlos Cojuangco of the Negros Occidental Football Association, inexplicably walked out for reasons only known to himself.

During the campaign, Martinez pledge to unite the fractious federation and build on the momentum that his predecessor Juan Miguel Romualdez began – the significant 25-point jump up the FIFA rankings and the construction of the $220,000 House of Football.

Formoso sought to equally divide almost the whole pie of the annual $250,000 that comes from the Financial Assistance Program of FIFA while leaving enough for operational expenses and the national teams.

The voting went 15-14 and Martinez’ way. Only declaring him as the new President wasn’t easy.

The current by-laws of the National Sports Association that were ratified in 2007, state in Chapter IV Article 11.4 that “The PFF Congress may transact officials matters only if there is a 50% + 1 quorum. All votes shall be taken as the absolute majority of the entire voting membership of the PFF Congress.”

There were 30 present including Cojuangco who walked out. Based on the Constitution, 50% would equals 15 members and plus one to comprise the absolute majority, whoever the new president might be would need 16 votes.

Since there were only 29 who voted, 50% would be 14.5 and when you add one more vote for it to be construed as the absolute majority then that would total 15.5. The elected president would have been half a vote short.

Despite the impasse, Romualdez said he made a judgment call and declared Martinez the 13th President of the PFF. Explained the outgoing President, “Since there were 29 members who voted, it’s not mathematically possibly to have the two-vote margin.”

The elections for the PFF President are done through secret balloting. By the time it was discovered that there was a snag in the electoral process, some of the voting members had left. “To call for reelections would cost the federation another P300,000,” was Romualdez’ second reason for his judgment call.

Unfortunately, unlike a football referee’s call on the pitch which is absolute, inside the boardroom, an important and delicate matter such as that could affect the federation’s future.

Martinez, who promised an administration of transparency, dedication, sincerity, and zeal, is instead fending off even more criticism and an early move to oust him.

Romualdez left the PFF with Php 2.4 million. But to date, the Martinez administration in just over a year in office, has a debt of close to Php 6 million. “Investments,” he rationalized of those expenses to this writer. “They are welcome to audit us anytime. We’re an open book to all the members,” invited the President. “I am a Christian and I do not lie. And so is my accountant. He’d be the first to resign if there are any anomalies.”

When pressed about the non-payment” of the coaches that has become a thorny issue, Martinez first blamed their failure to submit reports. When informed that they had indeed submitted their programs for approval, he meekly replied, “Hindi ko nakita. Natabunan sa desk ko.”

Then in the meeting with the PFF Board of Governors on February 21, 2009, when the matter was brought up by Mariano Araneta, former Head of the Coaches Committee and President of the Iloilo Football Association, the embattled President said that Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed Bin Hammam gave him the authority to use the funds for other matters.

“Which isn’t possible by the rules of the AFC regarding the AID 27 Program which provides that financial assistance of coaches. Even if Hammam did, for such as huge amount of money, it should be authorized through writing not via word of mouth,” argued Araneta.

In the weeks leading up to the PFF Congress, Martinez declared all the committees void and vacant. “I cannot have the heads trying to oust me,” he explained of his decision. “We have to move forward.”

And move forward they did.

On February 24 (the significance of the date -- the anniversary of the EDSA I People Power Revolution -- was not lost on Martinez when an aide mentioned it to him as he re-scheduled the Congress to accommodate Hammam three weeks ago), the move to oust him was squashed in the Board of Governors meeting as well as a well-timed Php 10 million assist by the AFC President. Hammam's passionate speech about solidarity for broke some key people behind the opposition.

"Our leaders have been beset by politics. You have to be given the right platform, guidance, and support not for ourselves but for football. You are not in a position to defend yourselves. Save the nation. Save the youth. The youth have not been saved. I am a real friend of yours and am talking from my heart to your heart."

Then he pledged Php 5 million in help for 2009 and another Php 5 million for 2010 outside the usual aid that the PFF receives from the AFC and FIFA.

And he gestured towards Martinez, "Will you accept this gift, Mr. President?"

"I stand for football," said Martinez who was touched by the donation to Philippine football. "Thank you, Mr. Bin Hammam."

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