Finally, change has come in Philippine sports.
Ricky Vargas, head of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), won the election as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), defeating Jose Cojuangco Jr., who headed the POC for 14 years.
Vargas received 24 votes, Cojuangco, 15, in the court-ordered election held Friday at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong City.
PhilCycling President Abraham Tolentino, also a House representative from Tagaytay, secured the chairmanship with a 23-15 victory over Philippine Table Tennis Federation (PTTF) President Ting Ledesma.
“This is an overwhelming experience and I thank everybody who supported my candidacy and that of Congressman Tolentino. We are here now to reach out, we are here to move on and we’re here to unite [with all the sports leaders],” Vargas told reporters after the election. “Reconciliation is very important at this point.”
“The gospel today is reconciliation and we will tap all local government units for Philippine sports,” Tolentino said.
Vargas said Manny V. Pangilinan, a businessman and sports patron, will give the POC P20 million as seed money. Pangilinan, a Vargas ally, showed up before the casting of votes.
Vargas’ term will run until 2020.
“We have a lot of work to do, a lot of things to discuss. We will make changes for the athletes and Philippine sports,” he said.
Cojuangco will be offered a seat on the POC executive council, he added.
All 43 national sports association (NSA) leaders were present but only 40 voted. Badminton president Albee Benitez arrived late and was not allowed to vote. Shooting holdover president Richard Fernandez and weightlifting chief Monico Puentevella were also not allowed to cast their votes due to technicalities.
POC election committee chairman Frank Elizalde, one of the three committee members, downplayed reports that the group may be sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since the election was held based on a letter sent by IOC Deputy Director General National Olympic Committee (NOC) Relations Director Pere Miro on February 9.
“There is no chance of a suspension [from the IOC. Otherwise,]on what ground? The IOC said to go ahead with the election and it happened, just now,” Elizalde said. “The POC will advise the IOC of this election. Cojuangco can appeal to the IOC [regarding this election]but on what ground?”
Cojuangco declined interviews after the election. He quickly left the venue, together with daughter Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, the country’s IOC representative.
Cojuangco, the Equestrian Federation of the Philippines president, was elected by acclamation in 2004 for his first term. In 2008, he defeated shooting president Art Macapagal.
Cojuangco ran unopposed in 2012 and 2016.
The elected officers in 2016, headed by first vice president Joey Romasanta, second vice president Jeff Tamayo, treasurer Julian Camacho, auditor Jonne Go, board members Cynthia Carrion, Prospero Pichay, Robert Mananquil and Clint Aranas, will now assist the newly elected president and chairman.