EIGHT years after the enactment of Republic Act 9850, the law that declares arnis as the Philippines’ national martial art and sport, a collision looms between the two most prominent arnis organizations in the country.
On one side is Arnis Philippines (ARPI) the national sport association (NSA) for arnis created in 1986. Under its first and current president Raymond Velayo, ARPI is the accredited arnis NSA in the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). It was accepted as the 33rd member of the Commission on January 12, 1987.
On the other side is the recently founded Philippine Eskrima, Kali, Arnis Federation (PEKAF) under the leadership of Sen.Juan Miguel Zubiri, the author of RA 9850. A Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Resolution No. 1606-2017 dated September 7, 2017, and signed by board secretary Julia Llanto, states that the PSC is recognizing PEKAF as an NSA for arnis.
Velayo is questioning the legality of creating another arnis NSA.
“It is unlawful. They (PSC) don’t have the authority or power to create an NSA,” Velayo said. “We are writing a letter to them. I will ask the board first.”
Velayo added that he’s concerned about the proposal to use PEKAF rules instead of ARPI rules in the Batang Pinoy and National Games.
“That’s very dangerous. They have no Olympic standard on safety.”
Velayo stressed that they are using a non-abrasive way in dealing with the PEKAF and the Department of Education.
“We are just telling them that there is a law and you must be careful not to violate the law. We are giving them opportunity to be forewarned. They (PEKAF) have told DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones that they are already the recognized NSA for arnis in this country. We told the DepEd about the law.”
When asked if he’s willing to work with the PEKAF, Velayo replied, “It’s the other way around—it is they who should work with us.”
He said that unity in arnis is still possible provided the different groups are given a chance to settle things among themselves. Velayo also admonished the PSC against “meddling” with arnis issues, “First and foremost, that is not their job. It’s the job of the Philippine Olympic Committee.”
Velayo also has a straightforward answer to his critics who think he’s overstaying in his post.
“What are their specific complaints? My being here for 30 years? Let them come with a program enticing to the membership and run for the elections. But you must be inside the organization [to do that]and they are out. I am here because they cannot take me out legally. And I’ve done nothing illegal. I should not have been here anymore if not for these recent developments that I consider challenging. All they do is talk. And you know that talk is cheap.”
Velayo added that the Arnis Law created a new scenario and that money and power often motivates people to do things. “Take money out of the equation and people would not be so enthusiastic,” he said.
A need for a new arnis NSA
Zubiri, meanwhile, said that PEKAF has a unique role and objective, “I am happy and thankful that Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation has been recognized by the Philippine Sports Commission. I would also like to clarify that at this point, PEKAF is not an NSA but an officially recognized sports association by the PSC. PEKAF shall perform its duties in helping propagate arnis across the Philippines and to also bring together the many arnis/kali/eskrima groups all over the Philippines in order to preserve and protect the cultural and martial heritage of our national sport and martial art.”
The senator, arnis expert and former sport arnis champion stressed that there is a pressing need to create another arnis NSA in addition to ARPI, “We’re pushing PEKAF as an NSA, because RA 9850 or the Arnis Law in 2009, has mandated the State to push for programs for the development of arnis as the national martial art and sport in all schools, universities and all organizations. Therefore a new organization has to be created to unify all styles, forms, all masters so that there can be unity for the purpose of promoting arnis all throughout the country and all throughout the world with a single unified rules of tournaments and competition so that one day we will become an Asian Games sport and an Olympic sport just like pencak silat, taekwando and karate.”
Zubiri said that the DepEd needs all the help it can get if the goal of promoting arnis nationwide is to be met. “We pushed for the accreditation of PEKAF because we truly wanted arnis to grow; that is our goal since the creation of PEKAF and this is what fuels our drive to make into reality our vision. I note that DepEd has arnis programs and that they have produced excellent clusters of arnisadors but due to the limited budget and manpower, the potential of producing excellent arnisadors on a national scale have yet to be utilized. With this accreditation, we can now work with the Department of Education and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts to preserve and spread the art of arnis across the Philippines by means of a grassroots program beginning in school.”
Zubiri said that he has no problem working with Velayo, “We invited ARPI to join. As a matter of fact, we reserved a Board seat for the head of Arnis Philippines in this unified organization. As mentioned earlier, we are not an NSA therefore there will be no conflict with ARPI with regards to their NSA status. Concerning programs and other activities, it is the right of the Philippine Sports Commission to decide on matters concerning partnerships and support for its sports programs.”
Zubiri said that RA 9850 is the sole basis for the creation of the PEKAF.
“Under RA 9850, it is the PSC who is the implementor of the law, therefore we recognize PSC’s authority in the development of the NSA of arnis. There could be many organizations and federations of arnis recognized but what is important is the one recognized by the PSC under RA 9850, and, it is the PEKAF.
According to Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Philippine Olympic Committee, it can accept and recognize as its member one NSA for each sport. The said provision does not prohibit the formation of another sports association for the same sport. Therefore, there is no problem with the PEKAF being a sports association along with ARPI as the particular provision only governs the recognition of an NSA by the POC and does not prohibit the creation of other sports associations which pursue similar goals and functions.
However, the special law on arnis has the PSC in charge of the promulgation of the law including the organization of a new NSA. The law governs but we are also applying for accreditation with the POC and we are hoping that we can also be the recognized NSA.”