Amateur boxing’s Ricky Vargas was disqualified from running as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, leaving incumbent Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco to seek a fourth straight term unopposed during elections of the country’s highest governing body in sports next month.
As everyone was expecting all along, Vargas was declared ineligible yesterday by a three-man election committee, two days after filing his candidacy and going mano-a-mano against a politician-sportsman described by many as overstaying and under performing.
The reason? Vargas is not attending general assembly meetings for the last two years.
According to election committee chairman Frank Elizalde, Vargas only attended one general assembly meeting in a span of two years, based on documents.
“As per records of attendance, I regret to advise that they did not comply with the attendance in general assembly,” said Elizalde, the former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines.
The decision was met with furious remarks from the Vargas camp with cycling president Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino saying “they have expected that (Vargas disqualification) because they (Cojuangco camp) don’t want to face us in a fair election.”
“That’s very unfair. But we will continue our fight for the betterment of Philippine sports,” said Tolentino, who was also disqualified for the same reason. He was to run for chairmanship.
In a text message to People’s Journal, Tolentino even reminded the POC that his association provided the lone gold medal for Team Philippines in last year’s Asian Games in South Korea.
The Vargas camp is adamant in saying the term “active member” refers to the national sports association, with Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), through executive director Ed Picson, regularly attending the general assembly meetings.
But Elizalde wouldn’t budge, saying the term “active member” refers to the individual, based on previous documents and practices by the POC.
“It is very clear that it is the individual that has to attend sufficient meetings. And I’m quoting from a document that was not made yesterday or the day before, and has been on record for quite a few years, meaning that if you aspire to be a president or chairman of the POC, you have to attend the general assemblies. It’s as simple as that,” said Elizalde.
In a statement, lawyer Chito Salud, the former PBA commissioner and Vargas’ spokesman, said “he believes he has all the qualifications to run for POC president and none of the disqualifications.”
The elder brother of late president Corazon Aquino was last challenged for the top post in 2008 by the late Art Macapagal, who lost by two votes (19-21) in a close election.
Vargas’ group has until Nov. 2 to file a protest with the POC Comelec with the option of elevating it to the executive board and eventually to the POC membership.
“It is unfortunate. The disqualification clearly disregards the principles of fair play and prejudices not just for the rights of ABAP but the interest and welfare of Philippine sports as well,” Salud added.
At this point, Salud said Vargas’ lawyers are “preparing for remedies and will determine whether it is pointless or futile to ask the election committee and the POC executive board for a reconsideration of the disqualification order.”
During the assembly, ABAP secretary general Pato Gregorio protested the disqualification, maintaining the required active participation relates to the national sports association as a member of the POC body.
“The main question that needs to be answered is can they define active participation? Our association actively participated in all the tournaments, international and local, our programs are in place and our budget is in place,” Gregorio said.