Election is on, but can Vargas run?
By NICK GIONGCO
It's green and go for the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) elections on Feb. 23.
But it is highly unlikely incumbent president Jose 'Peping' Cojuangco will find somebody this time on the opposite corner.
The POC General Assembly yesterday decided to hold an election this Friday as "it was the decision of the GA (and) not because it was ordered by the court," according to Surigao Representative Prospero Pichay, referring to an order made by a Pasig court ruling the elections of Nov. 2016 null and void.
Pichay said that the POC is "autonomous" and that is "following the rules of the IOC."
Still, the status of Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) president Ricky Vargas remains up in the air as an election committee to be headed by former International Olympic Committee (IOC) Representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde will review Vargas' candidacy.
Elizalde will have Fr. Bernie Oca of La Salle and election lawyer Alberto Agra, formerly of the Department of Justice, as members and they are expected to convene the soonest in time for Friday's election at Wack Wack.
Vargas, though appearing cool, calm and collected, sounded distraught with the latest move by the POC.
"The process that we are leading to is towards disqualification. Strongly they might (disqualify us again)," said Vargas, who was joined during yesterday's GA by the inner circle of tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, whose MVP Sports Foundation supports a number of high-profile sports.
"I am very disappointed to hear that from them. Shouldn't we respect also the laws of the land? That's a bad example not only to me but to the youth of the land that they are above the law," said Vargas in a press conference after the three-hour GA.
Vargas said the POC could face the wrath of the NSAs if he is not allowed to run.
"There could be possible movement from the NSAs...they may clamor for my inclusion, a backlash from the NSAs. The NSAs are smart enough to know what happened."
Vargas feels that the majority of the NSAs are fully behind them despite the seemingly lethargic response from NSA leaders during the GA.
"I won't be here if we feel we don't have the numbers," said Vargas, whose group later told reporters that a petition asking the POC not to disqualify Vargas and Tolentino has garnered majority of the NSAs' approval.
The POC had reiterated that even the ABAP itself was not regularly attending the GAs for two years in the runup to the elections, said Pichay.
"They disqualified themselves. The NSA was not attending the GAs," said Pichay, stressing that for an NSA to be actively attending, either the president or secretary-general should be present.
Apparently, Ed Picson, then the ABAP's executive director, was the one tasked to attend the GAs.
But Vargas is not losing hope and asks the NSAs rallying behind him for understanding.
"We are not giving up. Pasensya na...gaganda rin ito," he said.
Rep. Butch Pichay, Philippine chess head, right, ABAP President Ricky Vargas, center, and ABAP Executive Director Ed Picson await the start of yesterday's Philippine Olympic Committee General Assembly meeting at Wack Wack in Mandaluyong. (MB photo | Kevin Tristan Espiritu)