Philippine Swimming Inc. Awaits CAS Appeal Decision Following World Aquatics Suspension


By James Sutherland on SwimSwam


Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) remains in a state of flux as it awaits a decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after World Aquatics suspended the federation in February.

After World Aquatics implemented a stabilization committee to run the PSI in early December, also removing its recognition of its Board of Trustees and status as a member of World Aquatics, it then officially suspended the PSI in February.

The PSI has appealed both of the decisions, both of which are still pending with the CAS.

The CAS has dismissed the PSI’s appeals for a stay of execution of World Aquatics’ decisions, but not the appeals themselves.

The First Appeal

World Aquatics said it had received various complaints regarding “concerning matters of inter alia poor governance principles” in a letter issued to the PSI, informing them that the stabilization committee was being put in place in December.

The PSI appealed the decision on the following grounds:

  • The PSI claims that World Aquatics violated its right to due process, having imposed on it “the most serious sanctions under the 2021 FINA Constitution” without giving PSI the opportunity exercise its right to be heard.
  • The PSI says that World Aquatics did not have any “factual or legal basis” to appoint a Stabilization Committee, noting that Philippine law and public policy prohibits World Aquatics from appointing a committee to run PSI’s affairs.

In January, while the appeal was still pending with the CAS, the PSI says that World Aquatics “backtracked” and “suddenly” confirmed that it still recognizes PSI’s membership.

Then, on Feb. 21, World Aquatics withdrew its appointment of the stabilization committee. The PSI says this move came “abruptly” and “inexplicably,” while World Aquatics confirmed the move was made at that time but would not comment specifically on the reasoning, pointing to the fact that the case is still ongoing.

Due to the withdrawal of the stabilization committee, the PSI says that World Aquatics has “withdrawn” its decisions from December and thus the first appeal should be considered moot.

The PSI says that World Aquatics “essentially waived the white flag and admitted that those decisions lacked merit and should never have been issued in the first place.”

The Second Appeal

On Feb. 22, World Aquatics proceeded to officially suspend the PSI, appointing an electoral committee with the mandate to take all steps necessary to conduct and hold new elections.

World Aquatics says the Electoral Committee is mandated to take all steps necessary, including “invitation to submit nominations, preparation of electoral guidelines, vetting of candidates, convocation, to conduct and hold fair and democratic elections without undue influence in Philippines.”

World Aquatics added that the PSI’s suspension will be lifted once its mandate is complete.

According to a letter obtained by SwimSwam that was sent by World Aquatics to the PSI earlier in February, World Aquatics listed out the reasoning behind the initial sanctions against the PSI as the following:

  • Unethical and discriminatory actions by the PSI and the PSI Board against athletes and coaches
  • Non-compliance with the PSI Bylaws during the election procedure in April 2022
  • Integrity issues related to membership applications
  • Lack of transparency and good governance by the PSI President and the Board, as well as non-compliance with the World Aquatics Constitution

In addition to this, World Aquatics took issue with the PSI communicating with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), having checked in to see if a competition had been scheduled to serve as a qualifier for the 2023 Southeast Asian Games. According to a source close to the PSI, the stabilization committee had not communicated any details regarding a selection meet to the athletes.

The letter was then reported by a member of the stabilization committee to World Aquatics, which resulted in World Aquatics informing the PSI that it may be sanctioned due to both acting as if it was still in control of the federation (rather than the stabilization committee) and allowing the PSC, a governmental body, to intervene in its affairs.

“While the World Aquatics Bureau noted that PSI denied all allegations, it considers the allegations against PSI to be proven and very serious,” World Aquatics stated in a memorandum dated Feb. 22.

The PSI then assailed its suspension on March 13, appealing to the CAS on the following grounds:

  • The PSI says that World Aquatics violated its right to due process and right to be heard under the World Aquatics Constitution and Swiss Law.
  • The PSI says that its Board of Trustees had the obligation under Philippine law and its bylaws to continue carrying out their functions, and cannot be excused from their statutory duties simply because World Aquatics appointed a stabilization committee.
  • The PSI says its Board of Trustees did not deny the stabilization committee access to the PSI offices—which World Aquatics claimed but allegedly didn’t cite specific instances.
  • Regarding the PSI’s communication with the PSC, the PSI says its Secretary General did not put the federation at “risk” of “undue” governmental interference—they simply requested the PSC to exercise its powers granted under the Philippine Sports Commission Act.
  • The PSI says that “World Aquatics could not logically consider the PSI’s Board of Trustees as representatives of PSI for purposes of sanctioning PSI, but then refuse to consider them representatives of PSI for other purposes.”
  • The PSI claims that World Aquatics has no power under its Constitution to appoint an electoral committee to conduct and handle the election of a new “executive body” for a “member” like PSI.
  • If the electoral committee is considered another stabilization committee, the PSI claims that World Aquatics failed to comply with the requisites of such an appointment under Section 8.9 of the World Aquatics Constitution.
  • The PSI says the appointment of an electoral committee is a violation of Swiss law, specifically under the Federal Act on Private International Law of the Swiss Confederation, which provides that “companies are governed by the law of the state under which they are organized.”
  • The electoral committee cannot legally conduct elections without violating Philippine law (specifically the Revised Corporation Code) and PSI’s Bylaws.
  • Finally, the PSI also says that the appointment of the electoral committee is a direct violation of World Aquaitcs’ obligation under the Olympic Charter to respect the “right of autonomy” of PSI as a “sports organization” which includes PSI’s right to “determine the structure and governance of its organization and enjoy the right of elections free from any outside influence.”

Both appeals remain ongoing with the CAS.

“The suspension of the Philippine Swimming Inc., shall be lifted once the Electoral Committee will have completed its mandate as outlined above,” World Aquatics told SwimSwam. “These operations are ongoing and details are, and will be, communicated to athletes, clubs, etc. in due course.”

The PSI stressed that World Aquatics has not formally addressed the arguments they’ve raised and fully intends on seeing their appeals through.

“PSI intends to pursue these appeals, and asserts that WA’s decisions were rendered without factual or legal basis,” the PSI told SwimSwam.

All of this comes against the backdrop of Filipino swimming receiving the most attention that it has seen in the modern era. Two-time Olympic medalist for Canada Kayla Sanchez is now representing the Philippines internationally, and she’s brought another elite, Barbora Seemanova, with her (for training purposes only).

SwimSwam: Philippine Swimming Inc. Awaits CAS Appeal Decision Following World Aquatics Suspension

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