Martinez hits back at detractors
- Joaquin M. Henson () - November 5, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Embattled Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Jose Mari Martinez yesterday owned up to his accountability for about P2.8 million of missing funds but accused an associate Henry Tsai of absconding with the money.

Martinez confessed to making the mistake of appointing Tsai as executive vice president and entrusting him with PFF funds for “safekeeping” only to find out in an audit he himself ordered that the money was gone. 

Last week, Martinez staved off an attempt by five members of the PFF Board of Governors to file a resolution calling for his ouster before the National Congress made up of 32 provincial football associations set Nov. 27. The vote was 5-5 and Martinez quashed the motion by exercising his right to break the tie. Martinez said he would’ve been upheld outright if Bukidnon’s Ramon Manulas, who was absent, attended.

Martinez lashed out at his detractors for instigating a “hate” campaign to pressure him into resigning with a year left in his term.

“I’m not hiding anything,” he said. “I told my detractors the PFF books are open to anyone. Before they called on the Campos auditing firm to look into our books, I ordered my own audit with Sarah Fontanillas, a respected accountant who has done extensive work overseas. The audit findings were similar. There is money unaccounted for and it points to Tsai who is now in hiding. I will personally file a case against Tsai and put him in jail.”

Martinez and Tsai were friends for over 20 years, dating back to their previous engagement in the shipping business. When the PFF ran out of funds late last year, Martinez called on Tsai to advance P1.6 million. Tsai bailed out the PFF and Martinez later appointed him EVP on condition he would financially support the national futsal team, pay P40,000 monthly rent for space in the PFF building and provide a condo unit for the national football coach.

“I trusted Tsai,” said Martinez. “When he helped us out with our funding deficiency last year, I thought his heart was in football. My mistake was I entrusted him with PFF funds. I also lent him P2 million of my own money for his container business and never got paid back. By my count, there is about P2.8 million unaccounted for. I can cover it with a title of a property I got as security for about P1.4 million and the sale of Tsai’s Fortuner which is in my name.”

Martinez said money isn’t the issue. “On my own, I’ve saved the PFF about P15 million by getting support from sources for our programs,” he said. “I’ve also brought out my own money. For instance, there’s a football event in Tagum on Nov. 19-21 and P150,000 is the budget. I gave P80,000 from my own pocket to get the ball rolling. I’ve gotten Dan Palami to finance the national team and that’s at least a P5 million savings. I’ve received support from the football presidents of Indonesia, Iran and Qatar. The Asian Football Confederation supports my leadership and president Mohamed Bin Hamman appreciates the progress we’ve made in the PFF, sending 10 to 11 national teams abroad every year, creating the interport series in Taiwan and many more.”

What bothers Martinez is how his detractors are determined to boot him out of office.

“They are obsessed with gaining control of the PFF,” said Martinez. “Someone wants to be president, another a kingmaker. They want to see me die. They’ve condemned my wife and they’re even harassing my granddaughter. They’re killers. I’ve reached out to them. I told them it’s a family problem and let’s resolve it without blood money, without lawyers. They’ve taken me out as a bank signatory of the PFF accounts. I’m not fighting it. Right now, we only have one Class A signatory and two Class B signatories. I think we need another Class A signatory for control purposes.”

Despite a divided PFF, Martinez said he will not resign. “I will serve out my term,” he said. “If I stole any money, I would hide and run away. But I’m accessible. Anyone who claims I used PFF funds in excess for myself has the right to accuse me but I also have the right to defend myself. My credit card and phone bills paid for by the PFF are not for personal use. I never authorized the PFF to pay for my recent hospitalization. It was Tsai who did it and I expect it to be paid out of what he owes me.”

Martinez said if the majority of the heads of provincial associations want him to run for a second term, he will. “The elections are scheduled next year,” he said. “If they want me to run again, I will. I also plan to run for vice president of the Asean Football Federation to cement my good relations with our neighbor countries. I have succeeded in the PFF because of my good relations with Mr. Hammam and the other AFC officials. We just received an invitation to play a goodwill game with the Indonesian football team – the first ever. I’m arranging for our national team to train in Iran for three weeks and Qatar for a week next year before the Suzuki Cup. All we’ll pay for is plane fare, everything else is sponsored. Nobody else can get that kind of a deal for us.”

Martinez said he is tapping coach Rick Figuerido of Brazil to take over the national team next year. He claimed Figuerido has World Cup experience with Brazil, Jamaica and Mexico.

Martinez said the PFF’s deals with the events company G-World, where his wife Carla has an interest, are above board. “We brought in G-World with Jasmine Jamora to help us with some events which unfortunately, lost a little money,” he said. “Nothing irregular about that. I can show documents that prove nothing anomalous.”

Martinez said his detractors have succeeded in stripping him of his P25,000 monthly allowance and P8,000 monthly salary for a driver. “I don’t think it’s fair to do that to me, after all I’ve done for football, but I told them if that’s the case, I’ll take 20 percent of whatever I bring into the PFF,” he said. “I’ve brought in about P15 million so under my formula, that should be P3 million for me. Now, which is which? Giving me an allowance with a driver or a 20 percent share? My detractors couldn’t answer me.”

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