The boxing head who once thought of resigning because his association could not deliver the goods in the biggest stage of them all—the Olympic Games—is now the head of the country’s highest governing body in sports.
In a special election ordered by the court, Ricky Vargas beat incumbent president Jose Cojuangco, Jr., for the presidency of the Philippine Olympic Committee, 24-15, ending the reign of the seasoned politician from Tarlac, whose 13 years in office as POC head left so much to be desired.
Once the election committee led by former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde declared him and his ally cycling boss Rep. Bambol Tolentino, who ran as chairman, the winners, Vargas thanked his supporters and called for unity.
“Let’s all unite for the sake of the athletes and Philippine sports,” said Vargas, whose supporters erupted in cheers and shouted in delight when the 22nd vote was counted inside a function room of the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.
“This is for the athletes. This is for Philippine sports to succeed. This is for Philippine sports to be one again. Long live Philippine sports,” added Vargas, a very close ally of businessman-sportsman Manuel V. Pangilinan whose huge financial help to several sports associations is something that can’t be denied.
Minutes after winning it, Vargas, had wanted to talk to Cojuangco to show humility in triumph but could not find him.
Shaking his head, Cojuangco left the venue shortly after the final vote was counted, with daughter IOC representative Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski and some aides in tow.
The longest-serving POC head also refused to be interviewed, telling reporters, “Wag na muna ngayon. Saka na.”
But a possible challenge from Cojuangco could also be in the offing as he intends to inform the IOC about the decision of the POC election committee that conformed with a court order by the Pasig Regional Trial Court to include Vargas in the re-election.
Vargas declined to comment on Cojuangco’s plan, and instead called for reconciliation under his leadership.
“We will cross the bridge when we get there.. We have to reconcile,” he said.
As boxing continued to lay big, fat eggs in the last Olympic Games (London and Rio de Janeiro), Vargas had contemplated on resigning, mindful of the frustration of a nation which had placed so much hopes on this combat sport to give the country’s first gold medal.
But the boxers who played under his term all came home from Olympic battles all in body bags, so to speak, leading some pundits to remind the officials that there may be something wrong with their program.
Thus ended the most heated, bitterest election for the POC presidency, which came into fruition after Elizalde and his two members in the election committee in Br. Bernie Oca of La Salle an election lawyer Alberto Agra decided to let Vargas and Tolentino to run during a general assembly meeting on Wednesday.
In his first stab at the presidency in 2016, Vargas was not lucky. He was disqualified by Elizalde for not meeting the ‘active member’ criteria, something that Vargas camp did not take sitting down.
Vargas and his allies went to court, asking that the election should be declared null and void. After more than a year of waiting, he got what he wanted—a court ruling ordering POC to hold another election.
Still, asking the POC general assembly to hold an election didn’t come easily as the Cojuangco’s group did everything to torpedo Vargas’ move.
On the eve of the election, on Thursday afternoon, Vargas finally got what he was wishing for—a reelection and then the victory.