The UP Pep Squad Abuse Allegations
Here’s what we know about the alleged years-long physical, emotional and financial abuse suffered by the UP Pep Squad under the guidance of their coaches
MANILA, Philippines — UP Pep Squad coaches have been accused by current and former members of physical and emotional abuse in addition to unauthorized fee collections.
Campus reporters Cristina Chi, J-Ann Avila, Leo Baltar, and Aerielle Ulanday laid out the details in a two-part investigative series published jointly on Wednesday, July 20 by student publications Philippine Collegian and Tinig Ng Plaridel ( NPT).
Here’s what we know about the alleged long-running controversy.
UP Pep Squad
The UP Pep Squad is the university’s official cheerdance team that regularly competes in the annual UAAP Cheerdance Competition (CDC).
Formed in 1994, the team is currently the winningest team in league history with eight CDC titles – a distinction it shares with dance troupe UST Salinggawi.
However, UP are now in a 10-year title drought since winning their eighth championship in 2012, and have also not clinched anything higher than sixth place since 2015.
Yet UP and UST’s shared grip on the top spot remains strong as their next closest competitor, new dynasty NU Pep Squad, are still playing catch-up with just six titles to go. win.
Lalaine Perena is the longest-serving UP Pep Squad head coach, holding the position since 1998.
After leading UP to eight CDC titles – a run that began with a treble from 1999 to 2001 – Perena is now under fire for allegedly fining his athletes without UP’s knowledge over the years. for various reasons and amounts.
These included, but were not limited to, fines of 300 to 500 pesos for missing or being late for practices, and a fine of 5,000 pesos for the insignificant fact of forgetting one’s shoes.
This would have forced an athlete to buy new ones instead of handing over the exorbitant amount for the release of the confiscated pair.
Perena allegedly went so far as to charge a cheer squad member 150,000 PEP as a “consequence” for missing a 2018 mid-year training due to an overseas trip. The amount was reportedly used to sponsor new team shoes, but no breakdown of the expenses was given.
Perena also allegedly took a portion of UAAP athletes’ meal allowances and interfered with financial flows at non-UAAP international competitions.
UP Pep assistant coach Pio Opinaldo is the other central figure in the investigation report and was allegedly responsible for inflicting physical and emotional abuse while Perena and other aides allegedly watched.
By his own admission to the university’s Varsity Sports Program (VSP), Opinaldo subjected athletes to physical and emotional harm, including pushing and throwing slippers.
Members of Pep Squad also told student publications that they had been body-shamed during practices and had shouted at international competitions in full view of other competing countries.
According to reports, the VSP told Opinaldo to “revisit his coaching philosophy” to support “the basic psychological needs and well-being of student-athletes.”
Other accomplice coaches
Other coaches were not spared by the nearly 7,000-word report from TNP and Collegian, which also named interim head coach Nino Jose Antonio and assistants Amity Casurao-Trono and Suyin Chua as part of the alleged abuse.
Casurao-Trono has since responded to the allegations by saying the coaches “will do nothing to tarnish the reputation” they helped build, and she believes the two sides can “resolve the struggles through the proper process”.
Slow resolution by UP administration?
Student Publications detailed how the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA) only called a “team meeting” involving the two parties last July 14, three days after informing the office of their intention to publish their report.
It was reportedly the first time since February that the UP administration acted on the long-running set of grievances, which initially received a ‘discouraging’ resolution that still allowed other assistant coaches to return to their roles while that Perena and Opinaldo were on leave.
Another member of Pep Squad also said, according to the report, that the team had been waiting for a dialogue since April 2021 and wondered why there had been a year-long lull.
UP Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo also declined to tell student publications whether his office was ready to make a final decision on the matter.
As of press time, only UP Pep Squad alumni have provided an update on the situation, in which they expressed support for struggling student-athlete groups.