Just to set the record straight, the calls I got from the swimming community were from members as well as nonmembers of the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA), now the Philippine Swimming, Inc. (PSi), which is the national sports association for swimming.
Reportedly, PSi members who want to compete in a non-PSi event or established relationship with members of other swimming organizations always receive a threat of suspension from PSi President Mark Powell Joseph either by text or call, or through a verbal message relayed through the swimmer’s coach.
Going back to the ordeal of Loren Dale Echavez and her sister at the Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia. Echavez, then 12 years old and her sister were stripped off their medals after Joseph called the Arafura Games organizers that they were not a members of PASA, having failed to pay the 400.00 membership fee.
As earlier mentioned, everybody knows Echavez being a member of PASA and having joined its past competitions.
It was sad news for the swimming community especially the Cebuanos.
One can only imagine the feelings of the entire Cebuano team then under coach Augusto “Tatang” Bonilla.
Joseph’s action was a statement that he is the “lord of lords and king of kings” in Philippine swimming, so they say. One parent described Joseph as a proud “gorilla pounding on his chest.”
Echavez with her Cebuano teammates quit PASA after that incident.
Joseph’s discriminatory policies prompted me to organize a swimming competition for free with no membership fee required. The first edition got 500 participants.
It was followed by another swimming competition where I saw Echavez and her Cebuano teammates under Bonilla competed against Claire Adorna and Patricia Yam.
Echavez competed sometime in August 2009 at the Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) held in Singapore. Joseph again called the organizers telling them that PSL is not a member of PASA and therefore they should not be allowed to compete.
However, the father of Joseph Schooling, the Rio Olympic gold medallist, then the president of SICC, defended the PSL delegation, saying that they can compete because the SICC invited them.
Echavez was declared as the Most Outstanding Swimmer in her age category.
Echavez again competed as a member of the Philippine delegation in November 2009, in Taipei, Taiwan. Once more, Joseph called the organizers, asking them not to allow the Philippine delegation to compete. However, Joseph was ignored by the organizers and again, as a vindication, Echavez was declared Most Outstanding Swimmer in her age category.
The following year, Echavez competed in the 2010 World School Games in Cleveland, Ohio, USA together with Paul Jerome Carpio.
In the same year, I received a call from former Senator Nikki Coseteng telling me that another coach Ruben Thruelen, from Quezon City, related to her the predicament of the local swimming community.
I narrated to Sen. Coseteng what I know and she could not believe the terrible state of swimming in the Philippines.
In 2011, Coseteng invited Echavez to compete in the Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia for the second time. Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Ricardo Garcia was informed, however the PSC did not stand by Coseteng’s delegates. It was another case of failed leadership in Philippine sports.
It was also during that time that Coseteng found out the evil works of Joseph. Paul Jerome Carpio, Echavez’s teammate in the World School Games, filed a child abuse case against Joseph in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
It must be remembered that Carpio filed the case after Joseph accused him of using a fake passport resulting in the Malaysian organizers of the game barring him from competing under the Philippine banner.
After preliminary investigations, the fiscal found a probable cause against Joseph and a warrant of arrest was issued against him on August 10, 2012.
For his temporary liberty, Joseph has to post bail. The trial continues until now.
Meantime, Echavez enrolled in college while on the side winning in many Private Schools Athletic Association competitions.
During the 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, Korea, participated in by 180 countries, Echavez once more competed as a member of the PSL team.
It was then that Echavez fulfilled her dreams of competing in the second largest sports competition in the world, the Universiade.
Echavez is now a full-fledged lady pilot.
A reader asked why I titled this story “Thank You PSC?” It was because under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, PSC Chairman William Ramirez together with PSC Commissioners Ramon Fernandez, Arnold Agustin, Celia Kiram and Charles Raymond Maxey, declared that the PSL is now a swimming organization accredited with and officially recognized by the government.
(To be continued)