Malilong: Fresh leadership needed in the POC

UNTIL I read the editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Sunday, I did not know that a court has annulled the election of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco in November 2016 as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

Cojuangco is 83 years old and he has been POC president since 2004. It was during his watch that the performance of Filipino athletes in regional competitions nosedived. In the last Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, the Philippines remained mired in sixth place with 24 gold medals, way short of sports officials’ predicted 50 gold medal haul.

To illustrate how far we are lagging behind our Southeast Asian neighbors in sports, host Malaysia ran away with a 145 gold tally while fifth placer Indonesia had 14 more gold medals than we managed.

One of those 24 gold medals was won by Cebuana marathon queen, Joy Tabal, who almost did not make it to the Philippine team because track and field association officials said she lacked discipline. In fact, Joy’s only fault was that she trained outside of the Patafa, for that matter, outside of the country, courtesy of her sponsors.

It was only after Cebuanos, led by basketball legend and Philippine Sports Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, raised a furor that the Patafa relented and grudgingly reinstated Tabal in the national team. All the while, Cojuangco and the POC simply watched.

At his advanced age, Cojuangco should have been ready to be put out to pasture to allow the infusion of younger blood into the stagnant POC leadership. But instead of letting go, he held on to power with the help of his friends.

Boxing’s Ricky Vargas was supposed to challenge Cojuangco’s bid for re-election but his bid fizzled even before it could take off. Reason: the POC election committee disqualified Vargas as well as his candidate for chairman from running through a dubious interpretation of an obscure POC rule. Cojuangco breezed into his fourth term.

Unfortunately for him, the election has been set aside by the Pasig Regional Trial Court. In decision released last month, Judge Maria Gracia Cadiz Masaclang also ordered the POC to hold new elections on February 23. Unfortunately for Philippine sports, Cojuangco has announced that he would contest the decision.

It took the trial court more than a year to decide the case which was filed by Vargas. The appeals process could probably take another year. In the meantime, there are approaching major sports events like the Asian Games. How could our athletes prepare properly under a fractured leadership?

The Inquirer said Cojuangco should call for the election. To that I would like to add that he should not offer himself as a candidate for any office in that election anymore.
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