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UP Pep Squad coach: UAAP cheerdance organizers 'biased, unprofessional'

The UP Pep Squad at this year's UAAP cheerdance competition. KC Cruz
The UP Pep Squad at this year's UAAP cheerdance competition. KC Cruz

The coach of the University of the Philippines Pep Squad hit out at organizers of the 2015 UAAP Cheerdance Competition as the team continued to receive no point by point reply to its formal protest.

"We certainly made all attempts, exerted all efforts, exhausted all means to elicit clear explanations from them," UP Pep Squad coach Lalaine Juarez-Pereña told GMA News Online in an exclusive interview.

"However, they refused and kept on refusing, even making up lame excuses to avoid us."

Given this, Pereña claimed the officials of the cheerdance competition had displayed prejudice toward her team.

"We are still certain and we stand by our conviction that UAAP CDC 2015 was judged poorly and with obvious biases," she said.

In a letter dated October 5, 2015 — two days after the cheerdance competition — Pereña questioned the results that had National University successfully defending its title and University of Santo Tomas finishing second.

UP Diliman Chancellor Michael L. Tan, the president of the UAAP Board of Trustees, endorsed the letter to the UAAP Cheerdance Committee.

"I am endorsing the letter, convinced that unless all these questions are answered, the future of cheerdance as a sport, and UAAP as a university sports federation, will remain under a cloud of doubt," Tan wrote.

In its October 12 reply, the UAAP CDC did not answer any of the points raised in the protest letter.

"After careful review of your points raised in your protest letter, we have concluded that the results of the 2015 UAAP CDC are valid," read the reply signed by CDC commissioner Eduardo David Jr., CDC chairperson Gigi Kamus, CDC Head Judge Paula Isabel Nunag, and Philippine Cheerleading Association Head Carlos G. Valdes III.

Pereña said that despite promises, the cheerdance organizers refused to meet with UP coaches to discuss the protest.

In an earlier email to GMA News Online, Valdes defended the decision of the organizers.

"The decision was based on careful review of all the points raised by UP, and was regarded with the respect and professionalism that should be afforded all teams," he wrote.

"Again, the judges decision is final. Though some may not agree, we are confident in our system, and in the abilities of our judges."

When asked directly whether there was any animosity between his organization and UP, Valdes replied: "We treat all the teams equally, and regard them as friends and partners in this growing, vibrant, passionate community."

Forwarded email

But Pereña's doubts about the fairness of the organizers were fueled by an internal email supposedly written by Valdes mistakenly forwarded to her by the CDC commissioner David.

Pereña showed GMA News Online a copy of the email, wherein Valdes appears to have said the UP protest was an effort to be a nuisance.

Furthermore, Valdes underlined an instruction not to get into a technical discussion about the UP protest, which was described as full of annoying points.

"Clearly, they had no intention of taking our protest seriously with the tone of said email," said Pereña.

"Despite that, we followed protocol and we did not expose NCC's unprofessionalism. NCC head Carlos Valdes, as we saw it, evidently was prejudiced from the beginning."

Pereña said she only decided to expose the email after being unable to receive a satisfactory reply after a month.

GMA News Online reached out to Valdes and David but did not receive any reply.

Safety concerns

Pereña's biggest concerns, she said, were what she called unsafe moves executed by the NU Pep Squad at the competition.

"A stunt was performed by NU in the 2014 CDC where more than 360-degree flip was executed that ended in an inverted position. We wanted to protest this stunt after the competition. However, we decided to ignore it and we assumed that the judges were aware of the infraction and gave it the proper deduction," she said.

"No change to this rule was made for 2015 despite this violation. Thus, NU was emboldened to repeat this move, this time with 3 stunt  groups, a blatant disregard of the rule and worse still retained the CDC championship."

Pereña said that the league should step in to ensure the safety of its student-athletes.

"Rules to safeguard the participants are an integral part of the educational process and are essential to providing an appropriate balance between health and safety and entertainment," she said.

"The appropriate deductions would have resolved this matter but the NCC judges were remiss with this responsibility."

With the UP Pep Squad set to compete in Berlin later this month, Pereña hopes to provide closure to the issue. But she does not see a future for her and the team in the UAAP cheerdance competition if the NCC continues to organize the competition.

"As the present head coach of the UP Pep Squad, I will not allow the squad to be endangered and be subjected to the same heartbreak and injustice in future CDCs," she said. —GMA News