Limpag: Philta mess

Mike T. Limpag
·3 min read

FALLING short of calling the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta) an Old Guys’ Network, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) suspended Philta for two years after failing to enact reforms in the embattled organization. According to online reports, “Philta repeatedly did not comply with deadlines to submit standard reportorial requirements, including plans for amending the constitution to increase membership.”

Basically, the ITF told Philta to make its presence felt outside Manila and it failed to do so, hence the suspension. Philta officials aren’t worried, of course. Why should they? They got to cast the vote in the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) elections last week.

When did this trouble start? Well, to cut it short, it started in the 2017 Philta elections when the grand old man of Philippine tennis, Buddy Andrada, reneged on a deal to not run, which would have paved the way for the new generation to take control of the national sport association. The late Randy Villanueva, the man who brought the Davis Cup to Cebu, walked out of the elections along with his backer, Jean Henri Lhuillier.

A few months later, a different group, Unified Tennis Philippines (UTF), was formed and backed by Cebuana Lhuillier and Palawan Pawnshop. The two groups organized their own widely participated age group tournaments all over the country which for years, has sort of become the defacto Philta event. But without the two major backers, Philta’s presence outside of Manila greatly suffered.

Well, I think you can confidently say Philta was barely felt outside of Manila, hence the ITF’s order to Philta to include regional members of an organization that is supposed to be national in scope.

But then of course, why should Philta listen to the ITF?

To be fair to the UTF of the Lhuillier faction, it didn’t act like other factions of other suspended NSAs and just went about its business of spreading tennis all over the country through its age group tournaments. It didn’t, like the old basketball and volleyball wars, engaged in a “we should be the rightful NSA” public fight in the past three years. Philta it seems, didn’t do a single thing too, heck, I can’t remember if we’ve had a Philta event in Cebu since 2017.

What happens now to Philippine tennis that it is suspended for two years? Members of the national team, who have stayed silent in the past three years, have spoken up since they are directly affected. They are hoping for changes in the NSA but knowing Philippine sports politics, there won’t be any unless the Philippine Sports Commission and POC strong-arm the NSA to act.

Which brings us back to the POC election. Philta got to vote despite it being suspended by the ITF and if it backed the right horse, it’s going to be a case of “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

And the rest of Philippine tennis will be left scratching their heads.