The news came with a hint of indignation and disappointment.
The University of the Philippines (UP) Pep Squad, eight-time champion in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition, (CDC) announced it won’t join this year’s contest, which opens Nov. 19 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The reason is that the UP Pep Squad’s “issues and questions remain unresolved,” the team posted on Facebook.
Avid UP fan Arvyn Kent Casquejo agreed, saying that the team’s decision is about “honor before excellence.”
Another UP fan, Jason Doplito, who has written extensively about the CDC, understood the intention of the boycott. The UAAP did not handle UP’s concerns well, if at all, he noted.
But UP alumnus and Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen expressed on Twitter his disagreement: “Maintain principles but also honor your competition.”
UP Pep Squad explained its position in a complaint filed on Oct. 5, 2015, two days after the controversial CDC finals in which the team placed third behind runner-up University of Santo Tomas (UST) and champion National University (NU).
In the complaint, UP Pep Squad coach Lalaine Juarez-Pereña said: “There was prejudice in the scoring process,” pointing out that the final scores did not reflect NU’s rule violations and UST’s poor execution.
A week later came the reply: “The results of the 2015 UAAP CDC are valid.” It was signed by CDC commissioner Eduardo David Jr., chair Gigi Kamus, head judge Paula Isabel Nunag and Philippine Cheerleading Association (PCA) head Carlos G. Valdes III.
And then Pereña claimed that an e-mail from Valdes, which noted that UP had made annoying points during the competition, had been erroneously forwarded to her.
Explaining the boycott, the UP Pep Squad stressed: “We stay true to our word of foregoing with the competition, should the same organizers be hired to handle the event again.”
Casquejo recalled that PCA and UP got into a conflict years ago involving the National Cheerleading Competition (NCC) in which Valdes and Nunag are also identified with: UP was the first-ever NCC champion.
It rejoined in 2007, ending up second because of a pyramid fall that supposedly merited a certain deduction. In UP’s computation, they would have been still champions.
A reliable source did not delve into that conflict, but said the results had to do with affiliations.
Among UAAP schools, the source said, only UP is not a member of PCA. Instead, it is identified with the Cheerleading Philippines Federation (CPF).
CPF is said to be recognized by the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
It was responsible for sending UP to Germany last year to participate in the Cheerleading World Championships of Japan-based International Federation of Cheerleading (IFC).
IFC is connected to the World Dance Sport Federation, which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
NCC and PCA are with the International Cheer Union (ICU) and operate on their own as private organizations. Members of cheering teams representing the Philippines at ICU’s World Cheerleading Championships are screened through auditions and NCC results.
“It was apparent that all the other schools were ganging up on UP as it is the only team from a different organization,” the source noted.
But Valdes dismissed any animosity between the two parties.
Since 2013, the CDC criteria have been divided into cheerleading and dance. Cheerleading has tumbling, stunts, tosses and pyramids, with a maximum of 100 points each. Dance gets 400 points.
“It’s the right balance,” said Doplito, who started following the CDC in 2000. “It’s what separates the UAAP Cheerdance from other similar events in the country, even internationally.”
In the 2015 UAAP CDC finals, Doplito believed the top 3 winners were UP, UST, NU. He noted that NU committed too many errors; UST’s routine was clean but lacked daring; and UP didn’t have a flawless run but had a high level of difficulty.
The source said that the scoring was lopsided: “They manipulated the system to make sure that NU would still be champions and they did everything to pull UP down.”
The observation is that the CDC will have credibility only if it overhauls the standards— from the criteria to the system to the judges.
Casquejo said that with UP out of the competition, “there’s a big chance of an NU four-peat, although there’s FEU and UST.”
Doplito pointed out: “Last year showed that NU wasn’t a solid performer as we’ve all come to believe… UST, FEU and ADMU might just serve up exciting routines.”
But the effects of the UP boycott will be most felt in the absence of an enthusiastic crowd from the UP System. In his college days, Casquejo would travel from UP Baguio to join his peers from other UP constituent universities to watch the CDC and scream their lungs out for their school.
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