FORMER Philippine Swimming Inc. president Mark Joseph died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday (Manila time) in United Kingdom.
He was 56.
Current PSI chief Lani Velasco confirmed the sad news in a statement, saying Joseph's sister and the rest of the family are making arrangements for his funeral.
Aside for previously heading the country's swimming federation, Joseph, a former councilor in Makati City and national athlete who had been involved in the sport since the eighties, was also vice chairman for High Diving discipline at FINA, the world governing body for the sport.
"Mr. Joseph made a significant impact in Philippine swimming by promoting the sport at the grassroots level and by raising Philippine swimming to international standards," said Velasco, a protege of Joseph who succeeded him as president of the PSI.
It was under Joseph's watch at PSI that the country last won gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games, bagging a total of eight during the 2007 edition at Nakhonratchasima in Thailand and anchored on the broad shoulders of Miguel Molina.
The Filipino swimmer accounted for half of the golds won by the country in aquatics to emerge as the Best Male Athlete of the meet.
The feat would pave the way for the country to send five swimmers to the 2008 Beijing Olympics led by Molina, Ryan Arabejo, Daniel Coakley, James Walsh, and Christel Simms.
Joseph himself qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but failed to compete as the country joined the US-led boycott of the Games.
But his stint with the PSI was not without controversy.
Joseph often clashed with another swimming group, the Philippine Swimming League (PSL), spearheaded by former Senator Nikki Coseteng and Olympian Susan Papa.
Coseteng even accused Joseph of money laundering in 2011 for allegedly being involved in the transfer of PAGCOR funds to the Trace College and Aquatics Center in Laguna owned by former chairman Efraim Genuino.
The accusation led to Joseph, Genuino, and seven others being charged with graft in 2016 for the anomalous release of P37 million worth of funds for the training of the Filipino swimmers for the 2012 London Olympics.
The Ombudsman found that the P37 million was directly disbursed to the swimming association instead of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
PASA (Philippine Amateur Swimming Association as PSI was then known), reportedly used the money to pay for the aquatic training facility at TRACE, a business controlled by the Genuino family.
Joseph, who later became health-conscious after being on the heavy side for a long time, has been out of the country for sometime, and in his absence, Velasco, his former secretary-general, took over as PSI Officer In-Charge.
Velasco later assumed the presidency following a PSI election sanctioned by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).