POC quandary, Philippine bobsled debut
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2018 - 12:00am

The ruling of the Pasig Regional Trial Court nullifying the 2016 Philippine Olympic Committee elections was a moral victory for Messrs. Ricky Vargas and Bambol Tolentino. But depending on how you interpret this precedent and options for erstwhile POC president Peping Cojuangco and party-mates, there are still many turns the case could take even before – or if – the prescribed new elections can take place in late February. The silence on the part of the present (or some would say immediate past) POC hierarchy only means that they are cooking up counter-measures and are waiting until the optimum moment to launch them.

Some quarters interpret the ruling to mean that the POC leadership is vacant and that Cojuangco is no longer president, not even in a holdover capacity. If that is the case, he does not have the legal personality to appeal as an official of the POC, and cannot even muster a General Assembly. That is a big if. However, as one of those named in the case, all parties have the right to seek their own legal protection. This means that he may file a motion for reconsideration with the same court, or file an appeal with a higher court. The first concern is that the POC must communicate a response to the Pasig RTC or face contempt, or seek relief in a higher court. 

The next issue is who will form a new COMELEC to facilitate the election, and who will be part of the POC’s new COMELEC. Every step of this process may cause delay in implementing the court’s instruction. Are there enough impartial, untainted bodies within the POC for the process? How soon can a General Assembly be convened? Will they have the numbers to decide anything substantial? These are all questions that arise as backroom dealing and horse-trading has accelerated as Feb. 23 approaches.

Since all the political maneuvering in the POC since 2008 (and possibly well before that), we now have a situation where, on the surface, POC officials control two to three National Sports Associations (NSAs). In reality, the state is more dire, more polarized. Some POC board members are said to wield influence over up to seven NSAs, forming a formidable voting bloc. This is a hefty bargaining chip weighted against those who want to take power away from Cojuangco and company. As the saying goes, there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Which way will the political pendulum swing, and what is being used to bargain? How does one ascertain the necessary votes to win in February? What is the cost of a four-year reign? 

Let’s also remember that the National Olympic Committee president of a SEA Games host country is the de facto head of the SEA Games Federation, as well. This means that that position is vacant, as well. Therefore, any and all plans regarding the country’s hosting of the Games in 2019 are not considered final until there is someone who will approve them at the POC. If Cojuangco is sure of victory in a fair election, then he should just let the election happen, if only to waste less time in getting ready for the SEA Games and, ultimately, prove his love for Philippine sports. Any dilatory tactics will only substantiate accusations of self-preservation and selfishness. Can he win a fair fight or not?

According to a story being circulated by a former Philippine Sports Commission official, the bloc that supported the late Art Macapagal in the 2008 POC elections, composed of 19 NSAs, is intact, with added voting members. However, until these sports leaders come out of the shadows and actually summon the courage to vote for someone else, the talk will be just that, talk. Multiple sources have told The Star that a majority of the POC NSAs want change, but are demanding an assurance of a Vargas victory, an electoral chicken and egg scenario, so to speak. 

So much can and will happen before Feb. 23, will it usher in change, or just bring back more of the same?

* * *

The country’s first bobsled team made its international debut at the Europa Cup in Igis, Tirol, Austria on Jan. 5. In an exclusive to The Star, Philippine National Bobsled Luge and Skeleton (PNLBSA) president and CEO Buddy Cunanan reported that Philippine Coast Guard officers Rolando Isidro (pilot) and Jeffrey dela Cruz (brakeman) overcame a shaky start in their first run to smoothly finish behind Japan in their second run at the Olympia Eiskanal. The Philippines thus became the first Southeast Asian country to compete in an international bobsled event. In Asia, Japan, South Korea and China have already competed in European bobsled tournaments.

“The good thing about bobsled is that it’s seasonal, which is a great equalizer for us,” says Cunanan. “When there is no ice, the other countries cannot practice, either. This will make it easier for us to catch up with them.”

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