AS CALLS for his removal continue to mount, Philippine Football Federation president Mari Martinez is facing another issue that could prove his undoing.

The issue involves his links with a certain Henry Tsai, which some members of the PFF Board of Governors have questioned in relation to several transactions involving PFF funds.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Tsai’s name first surfaced in a Nov. 11, 2009 sports article published in a national broadsheet. “Martinez said football patrons Dan Palami and Henry Tsai will shoulder the expenses of (Des) Bulpin’s stay in Manila,” the report read. Bulpin was the English coach hired by the PFF to coach the Philippine Men’s National Team but resigned under mysterious circumstances last month.

(During his visit along with members of the team last weekend, I asked Palami whether he knew Tsai and what his role was in financing the national team. The question caught Palami by surprise. Apparently he was unaware of whatever arrangement Tsai and the PFF had. I did not pursue the question in deference to Palami, who is dead serious about forging a winning team.)

Several issues have been hurled against Martinez over the past few years since he took office in 2007, but the issue involving Tsai is most intriguing.

One of those questioning Martinez’s ties with Tsai is Mariano “Nonong” Araneta Jr., a member of the PFF Board of Governors, who wrote the PFF president a letter dated July 28, 2010.

Sun.Star Cebu secured a copy of the signed letter that sought Martinez’s “clarification” on an investment using PFF Inc. (PFFI) funds “to Mr. Henry Tsai in the amount of P1,500,000 and $30,000 more or less.”

Araneta sought clarification from Martinez, the chairman of the board, on the following points:

Under whose authority was the investment of the PFFI funds made?

What is the nature of the investment? Who are the contracting parties?

When was the investment made?

What are the basic terms and conditions of the investments?

What is the current status of the investment?

Araneta wants Martinez to “help enlighten the undersigned and the other members of the PFFI Board of Governors concerning the investment.” (I called up Araneta’s office yesterday to confirm whether Martinez has replied, but the person on the other line

told me his boss was on leave.)

Other members of the board had questions of their own.

A week after Araneta sent his letter, Cebu Football Association president Richard Montayre and Negros Occidental Football Association president Dick Emperado wrote Martinez to ask him about PFF checks that were returned because of insufficient funds.

One of the signatories was Tsai.

“In connection with the incidents in Mindanao regarding the issued checks to the participating Football Associations for the Filipino Premier League, we noted that some of the checks were returned due to insufficient funds and that one of the signatories of the checks was Mr. Henry Tsai,” read the letter dated Aug. 5, 2010 and signed by Montayre and Emperado.

The two board members wanted to know who approved to make Tsai as signatory, and whether there was a board resolution for the approval.

The Filipino football community wants to know as well. There’s been talk of setting up a “truth commission” to investigate the transactions, as well as other issues of national embarrassment, particularly the “missing” funds that the Asian Football Confederation had set aside for the Vision Philippines program.

With all these allegations of irregularities cropping up on a weekly basis, it’s high time for a commission to extract the truth from Martinez and his ilk. I wonder what the rest of the Board of Governors are waiting for.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)