Unsportsmanlike reaction
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2017 - 4:00pm

An unidentified POC official was quoted as saying the recent decision by the Pasig Regional Trial Court branch 155 nullifying the 2016 election for president and calling for new polls on Feb. 23 will die a natural death because the implementing timetable could take until 2020 with opposing lawyers expected to stall the process.

It took the court over a year to release the decision that was signed last Dec. 1. When disqualified POC presidential candidate Ricky Vargas received the notice, it was last Dec. 20. The POC will likely file a motion for reconsideration and if that’s turned down, it could seek redress from the Court of Appeals. If the Court of Appeals rejects it, the POC could file a motion for reconsideration. And if the POC is rebuked once more, it could go to the Supreme Court. If the court took over a year to decide on the initial plea, the journey all the way to the Supreme Court could take another three years. By the time a final verdict is issued, the POC will be calling for new elections anyway.

But if the POC is as principled as it should be in the spirit of competition, it should tackle the problem head-on without resorting to delaying tactics.  This isn’t about survival or doing everything imaginable to stay in office. This is about doing what is right, fair and honest.

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Of course, the POC could cry foul and cite government intervention which the IOC abhors. That would be self-serving on the POC’s part to protect the term of the incumbent. That would also be at the expense of national interest because running to the IOC could trigger a suspension. Besides, the POC attended court hearings, meaning it respects the authority of the presiding judge to rule on the matter. Now that a decision has been made and it isn’t in the POC’s favor, objecting to the verdict smacks of poor sportsmanship.

The court ruled that Vargas and Rep. Bambol Tolentino shouldn’t have been disqualified from running in the 2016 polls. In effect, the court said their Constitutional rights were violated.  So in calling for the Feb. 23 elections, the court ordered the POC COMELEC to include Vargas as candidate for president and Tolentino as candidate for chairman. Vargas and Tolentino weren’t the only candidates who were thumbed down by the POC COMELEC. Another was Tom Carrasco, candidate for chairman. Carrasco, however, was rejected because only presidents of NSAs of Olympic sports are eligible to run for chairman. 

Carrasco used to be triathlon president but is now secretary-general. Vargas and Tolentino were disqualified because the POC COMELEC determined that they had not shown “active participation” in the POC General Assembly over the previous two years. “Active participation” is not defined in the POC By-Laws and its ambiguity is a source of unresolved debate.

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Vargas said the court order validates the fight for democracy in the POC. “All we want is to give NSAs a choice,” he said. “We want a democratic election.” Without Vargas in contention, Jose Cojuangco, Jr. won a fourth term as POC president as he took 26 of 40 votes despite running unopposed.  The chairmanship was declared vacant because there was no eligible candidate.

The sporting thing to do is to call for new elections and let the NSAs decide who should rule the POC. It’s not right to hide behind the skirts of the IOC and an unlawful election just to stay in power. That sets a bad example to national athletes whom the POC is tasked to care for. What is the POC afraid of? If the POC powers believe they rule because of the NSAs mandate, then put it to a real test as affirmed by a court of law.

For a POC official to even suggest a long-drawn out process to avoid the implementation of a court order is like mocking the law. Every citizen has the right to seek redress within the justice system but this issue involves sports and fair play. The POC COMELEC curtailed the rights of two candidates to run for office last year. The court has ruled that the POC COMELEC should’ve allowed them to run so let’s right the wrong and hold the new polls on Feb. 23. Let the chips fall where they may. The time to show class and sportsmanship has come. The POC should be ready to do what is fair and just.

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