Romero bats for overhaul of POC leadership
By Nick Giongco and Jerome Lagunzad
Despite the grim prognosis, Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) president Ricky Vargas is pinning his hopes on a petition letter signed by a majority of national sports associations urging the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to allow him to challenge Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco, Jr. for the presidency this Friday.
Vargas has apparently garnered the support of about 25 national sports associations and personages that can cast votes when elections are held at Wack Wack.
Among those who signed are Cojuangco’s allies – POC first vice-president Joey Romasanta, and even canoe-kayak’s Jonne Go and Jeff Tamayo of soft tennis.
A three-man election panel that was formed by the POC after Monday’s extraordinary General Assembly – made up of La Sale’s Bernie Oca, topnotch election lawyer Alberto Agra and headed by former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippine Frank Elizalde – will meet to determine Vargas’ fate.
Elizalde, who headed a similar committee in 2016 that disqualified Vargas from running against Cojuangco, is expected to arrive in Manila today from the Winter Olympics in Korea.
“We will present it before the elections this Friday,” he said.
Vargas, whose bloc is represented by key sports, including basketball, boxing, weightlifting and football, was distraught with the impending ruling barring him from getting to meet Cojuangco head-on.
“I don’t think we don’t even have the right to question (composition of the election committee). It’s a leadership that doesn’t allow that kind of openness,” said Vargas, whose candidacy is backed by tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan.
Meantime, 1Pacman Partylist Representative Mikee Romero has joined the chorus of those seeking a complete overhaul of the POC leadership.
“With the sad state of Philippine sports, change in the POC leadership is long overdue,” said Romero, 45, one of the country’s top sports patron who is currently the vice chairman on Youth and Sports Committee in the Lower House.
Since the POC General Assembly has approved its elections on Friday, Romero said he’s keeping his fingers crossed that all national sports association (NSA) heads, especially those aligned with current POC president Peping Cojuangco, will look on the bigger picture and seek a different yet better direction.
“We need new direction, new energy, and renewed focus. The longest-serving POC president has put the country’s sports program to its lowest ever records. It is time for a fresh start,” he said.
While most of the country’s neighbors like Singapore, Vietnam and even Myanmar have taken significant strides in sporting meets, Romero said the Philippines has been going down south at an alarming rate.
Romero cited that under Cojuangco’s watch, since he took over in 2005, the country has produced only one Olympic medal, a silver courtesy of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In the Asian Games, country collected a measly eight golds, 13 silvers and 29 bronzes during the reign of Cojuangco.
The only welcome sight for Philippine sports came in 2005 when Manila hosted the Southeast Asian Games, racking up a record of 113 gold medals.
Two years after, the Philippines suffered a big meltdown in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, garnering just 41 golds and finishing sixth overall in the medal race.
In the previous SEAG held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last year, the PH team didn’t fare up any better, settling for just 24 golds, the country’s worst showing in the biennial regional meet over the last 18 years.
Romero described the current POC leadership as “pathetic” because its woeful record is an insult to the blood, sweat, and tears of the athletes, coaches and their families who have invested a lot in their quest for an Olympic gold medal.