By Nick Giongco
A division of the house will force the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to hold an election for the position of president and chairmanship tomorrow, the block backing the candidacy of boxing head Ricky Vargas declared yesterday.
Presiding over a press conference at Valle Verde, Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) Secretary-General Ed Picson said 27 national sports association leaders have thrown their support behind Vargas.
“The past few days, there have been various NSAs who have felt that this is the time for change and reform,” said Picson, noting that some members of incumbent POC president Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco’s inner circle have defected.
An election committee assigned by the POC is expected to rule against the candidacy of Vargas and Tolentino owing to the same reason that disqualified them from running in 2016.
Vargas and Tolentino were ruled ineligible as they were not active members of the bi-monthly General Assembly and this same reason will likely be applied this time.
Vargas and Tolentino are backed by a ruling from a Pasig court that ordered that election be held on Feb. 23, saying the 2016 polls were null and void.
The POC doesn’t have a choice but to follow the court order, Vargas’ camp insists.
However, Cojuangco’s supporters swear the POC doesn’t recognize the court ruling and that they are only answerable to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Joining Picson in showing their support to Vargas are football’s Nonong Araneta, Cynthia Carrion of gymnastics, Monico Puentevella of weightlifting, Richard Fernandez of shooting, Karen Caballero of sepak takraw and Richard Bachmann of squash.
In the event the election committee disqualifies Vargas and Tolentino anew, the group said it will divide the house.
“The General Assembly is the one that decides,” said Picson.
“The assigned election committee doesn’t have the power to decide on active membership. Only the GA that is mandated by the IOC. We will push the GA to decide this,” said Puentevella.
“Today, 27 NSAs signed petitions mainly supporting the elections that will happen this Friday. They really feel the need for change in the POC.
Carrion, who used to be aligned with Cojuangco, was likewise vocal.
I supported Peping all the way. But when I became CDM, and then saw all the things that what they’re doing…it’s so embarrassing,” said Carrion.
“The things they do that are against the Olympic charter. They don’t follow the Olympic charter,” she added.
“I am appalled with the way they’re running things as if they can do what they like to do. I don’t know why up to now, a lot of us are still blind on seeing these things right in front of our eyes,” said Araneta.
Still, Araneta maintains that his group will honor the result of the elections.
“Allow Vargas and Tolentino to run. Let them run. Whoever wins, we support. Le us not divide sports.”
There will be 45 voting members in the POC, including athletes’ representatives Henry Dagmil of track and field and Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting and IOC representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski.
There is also the possibility that Vargas’ party will allow the elections to proceed without them but the 27 who have expressed their support to him will still write his name on the ballot.
“We will get 27 votes and Peping gets only 13 and we will send it to the IOC,” said a diehard Vargas backer.