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Ex-POC chief calls for end to dispute

Celso Dayrit

MANILA, Philippines – Former POC president Celso Dayrit yesterday called on candidates aspiring for positions in the Nov. 25 POC elections to settle disputes in a sporting manner without involving the courts.

“This isn’t about one or two persons,” said Dayrit who served as POC president for six years from 1999 to 2004. “This is about the continued strengthening of Philippine sports which we all love and are committed to serve. I think it’s imperative to bring in more people who can help. During my term, the Philippines would contend for No. 3 or No. 4 in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Now, we’re fighting for No. 6 or No. 7. We were never this low before. We should figure out how to improve, looking forward.”

Dayrit, 64, said the POC has become too politicized over the years, causing demoralization within the ranks and a drop in the country’s performance in international competitions. “I don’t think it’s right to interpret the POC Constitution and By-Laws to suit anyone’s interest,” he said. “When I was thinking of running for reelection as POC president in 2004, I was pressured into giving way in front of my face. At the time, I was full of ideas and dreams of getting our country more involved in the Olympic movement. But I was told Cong. Peping Jose Cojuangco Jr. could do better than me. So I gave way after serving 1 1/2 terms. Now, Cong. Peping should find the heart and mind to be more gracious instead of seeking a fourth straight term. Maybe, it’s time for him to give way like I did.”

Dayrit hesitated to speculate if resorting to court action in an attempt to overturn the POC Comelec’s disqualification of candidates Rep. Abraham Tolentino (for chairman) and Ricky Vargas (for president) could lead to a suspension by the IOC for government interference. “I’m not the IOC so it’s not my place to comment,” he said. “Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea of going to court to resolve a POC dispute. Our POC leaders should just talk it out and settle the problem like sportsmen and gentlemen.”

Dayrit pointed out that the POC is a volunteer, not a political, organization. “I was trained by the IOC,” he said. “The Olympic movement is the biggest volunteer organization in the world. We serve to do service to sports. When I was POC president, I never received a salary. None of the POC officers did. Of course, we were compensated for the time we put in through the reimbursement of expenses, including travel. We never made sports our livelihood. Even our legal counsel, Atty. Victor Africa, was never paid.”

Dayrit said the POC receives a share of what the IOC earns from revenues derived from the Olympics. “The IOC has a formula of sharing income with the International Federations and National Olympic Committees,” he said. “The US Olympic Committee gets a big share because of the critical role that American athletes play in the Olympics. The international track and field federation has a bigger share than others. The POC is given more than Vietnam but less than Indonesia and Thailand. This money has to be accounted for and reports must be submitted to the POC General Assembly.” Dayrit said the money for the POC is allocated for every Olympic cycle and released annually. He estimated the amount to be at least $500,000 in a four-year cycle.

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Regarding direct PSC releases to the POC, Dayrit said it was never the practice during his incumbency. “The POC used to take care of all travel and hotel expenses for international competitions without support from the PSC,” he said. It was recently disclosed by PSC commissioner Ramon Fernandez that starting in 2010, the PSC released funds directly to the POC on a yearly basis. The amount released by the PSC to the POC from 2010 to 2016 was P130.6 Million.

Dayrit said it was in 1999 when the requirement of “active membership” was provided as a rule of eligibility for candidates in the POC By-Laws. “It was meant to qualify candidates not quantify,” he said. “There was never an attempt to quantify what active membership meant. But it was the consensus that a candidate must actively participate in POC affairs although in what way was never defined. I think it’s right that a candidate just can’t come out of nowhere.”

Regarding the possible imposition of term and age limits for POC positions, Dayrit said he doesn’t agree. “If an incumbent can still do the job, why not?” he continued. “The General Assembly never attempted to quantify term and age limits. I think it’s more important to establish quality than quantity. For instance, you can attend General Assembly meetings as an NSA president but not participate. So what good is physical presence? There are NSA presidents who were voted in for their political or financial clout but aren’t involved in decision-making or management at all. That’s not necessarily bad. I think we should find leaders who will do good for the POC with no personal agenda.”

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