by Kristel Satumbaga
Amateur boxing chief Ricky Vargas was elected president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) last February at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong, ending the 13-year reign of former representative Peping Cojuangco Jr.
It was a dramatic turn of events for Vargas after he received a big boost on the eve of the elections when a three-man election panel chaired by longtime International Olympic Committee representative Frank Elizalde ruled that Vargas was eligible to run.
Elizalde had earlier said Vargas and his running mate, cycling head Bambol Tolentino, were ineligible to run for failing to meet an attendance requirement in POC general assembly meetings. But a Pasig court later voided the ruling and ordered the POC to conduct an election that will include Vargas and Tolentino.
Vargas, who had the support of business tycoon and sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan, earned a resounding 24-15 decision.
“We will make changes for the athletes… for Philippine sports to succeed and become one again,” Vargas said following his victory.
Tolentino, meanwhile, took over as POC chairman by beating table tennis chief Ting Ledesma, 23-15.
Financial support immediately poured in as soon as Vargas was elected, with Pangilinan providing a P20-million “seed money” and San Miguel Corp. donating P50 million. All 12 PBA teams also contributed P500,000 each for an additional P6 million.