“I am willing to go jail if needs be if only to defend the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) from outside encroachment in the performance of its duties and responsibilities as mandated by the International Olympic Committee.
Thus declared POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco as he spoke on his election for a fourth term as head of the country’s sports regulating body which was nullified by a Pasig City Regional Trial Court in a decision penned by Judge Maria Gracia Cadiz-Casaclang by virtue of a protest filed by the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines president Rickie Vargas.
Cojuangco, now 83, said, in an interview with The Manila Times last week, that a motion to appeal the decision is currently being prepared by the association lawyers and that the POC will not stop using all the available legal remedies if only to prove that the political exercise held last year was in line with the POC rules patterned after the IOC rules on the matter.
He said the POC would be consulting the IOC on the planned route and the subsequent moves the body intends to do in the future. “Mabuti nang konsutahin natin ang IOC sa bawat hakbang na ating gagawin para naman hindi makompromiso ang ating katayuan bilang miyembro ng IOC.”
The POC commission on elections disqualified Vargas and cycling’s Abraham Tolentino, head of the Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines, from seeking the presidency and chairmanship, respectively, in the last elections, for being inactive in the association’s general assembly activities. Vargas, for instance, attended the general assembly only once in two years, it was alleged.
Cojuangco, thus, was elected for another four-year-term. Judge Cadiz-Casaclang of Pasig RTC Branch 155 nullified the elections for the posts of chairman and president, and ordered a new election to be held on February 23, 2018.
“We are appealing the decision declaring null and void the results of the elections, precisely to defend, not only the autonomy and independence as well as integrity of the POC from the interference of outside world, including the government,” Cojuangco told this writer.
“The rules on the POC elections, which are in accordance with those of the IOC, are clear.” he asserted. “Kung sinuman and may hangad na magsilbi bilang matataas na opisyales ng POC ay dapat maging aktibo sa gawaing kaakibat ng posisyon.”
“Mr. Vargas should have known that before throwing his hats to the political arena. Because these rules have been in effect since the early 1900s. These rules are being implemented, precisely, to ensure that those elected can do the job for which they ran for,” Cojuangco emphasized.
The independence, autonomy and integrity of the POC as a private sports entity vis-à-vis its relationship with the outside world, including the government, had been put to test several times before.
One case involved a suit filed by an unrecognized National Sports Association head with the Court of Appeals against then POC president, the late Jose Sering. Said NSA official sought the inclusion of athletes of his choice to the 1986 Seoul Olympics over and above those the POC had already approved on recommendation of another NSA president recognized by the governing body.
During the hearing, Sering invoked the POC independence and autonomy arguing that only he Olympic Committee can accredit athletes competing in the Olympic Games and all sports competitions sanctioned by the IOC. Sering told the justice that the CA had no jurisdiction over the case, prompting the presiding justice to ask him, “Do you want to tell us, Mr. Sering, that your Philippine Olympic Committee is above the law of this land and you are above the jurisdiction of this court? “
To this, Sering a lawyer, who passed the bar exam in the top 10 list, replied: “No. Your Honor, if this court will order me to, by final judgment, to include these athletes, I will do so, otherwise I will be held for contempt of court. But what will happen, Your Honor, when these athletes arrive in Seoul and the International Olympic Committee is informed that these athletes were included by order of the court and not by our free will, and they (are ordered) to go home or not allowed to compete in the Games, can the court force the IOC to include them? “
The court after reviewing the Constitution of the IOC dismissed the case.
One other case that, too, happened during the watch of Sering was that involving question of government money purportedly given to the POC. Sering, who was the president, too, of the local track and field association that time, was summoned by the Lower House Committee on Youth and sports to bring the books of the POC and explain how the agency spent the government money for the Olympic Games.
Even before the query got started, Sering asked the committee chair and its members whether they, by any chance, had also invited the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Jaycees, etc. to show their financial conditions. “ Of course, we cannot,” one member answered. “They are private social institutions.”
The POC top honcho then countered: “Gentlemen and ladies, for your information, the POC is, likewise, a private entity like those Social clubs.” The committee chair then asked: “But what about the government money you spent for the Olympic Games?
“Sir, if you can show me any proof that your government gave the POC any centavo for the trip, then I will submit to your investigation, ” Sering answered adding, “government money spent for sports is given to Gintong Alay (then the government’s funding agency for sport before the Philippine Sports Commission came into law), not to the POC.”
Sering then started lecturing members of Congress on what the POC is all about, its responsibilities and its structure as a private body beholden only to the IOC. He also gave congressman a book each on the IOC rules.