MANILA, Philippines—The National Chess Federation of the Philippines has tapped International Master Richard Bitoon to replace Grandmaster Rogelio “Joey” Antonio Jr. in the national team competing in the 2010 Chess Olympiad set Sept. 19-Oct. 3 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
The 47-year-old Antonio was dropped from the Olympiad roster after he opted to play in two minor events in the United States rather than join the recent 6th Pichay Cup and the just-concluded first Florencio Campomanes Memorial Chess Olympiad.
Antonio’s wife, Aileen, appealed to NCFP president Prospero “Butch” Pichay on Wednesday to reconsider the ban, but Pichay did not relent.
As a consequence, Antonio, who is returning to the country on Sept. 11, intends to sue Pichay and NCFP executive director Wille Abalos.
In an e-mail sent by Aileen to the Inquirer, Antonio said: ” The actuations of Mr. Pichay and Mr. Abalos had besmirched my reputation as a national sports figure, and had caused me extreme mental anguish and sleepless nights. They left me without a choice but to sue them in court, civilly and criminally.”
Antonio is expected to tap the services of lawyer Sammy Estimo, a former secretary general of the NCFP, in a bid to reclaim his spot in the Olympiad and the Guangzhou Asian Games next month.
The 34-year-old Bitoon, for his part, expressed readiness to take part in his third Olympiad, saying that he’ll begin intensive training Monday.
The Cebu-born Bitoon also donned the national colors in the 1998 Kalmykia and 2000 Istanbul Olympiads.
Bitoon, the 2008 Singapore Masters champion, will be joining GMs Wesley So, John Paul Gomez, Darwin Laylo and Eugene Torre in the Philippines’ bid to improve on its 46th place finish in the 2008 Dresden Chess Olympiad.
So, Laylo and Antonio are members of the Elite 20 athletes training for the Asiad, which entitles each of them a P20,000 monthly allowance from the Philippine Sports Commission