POC squabble still unresolved
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2019 - 12:00am

The other day, newly-elevated POC president Joey Romasanta called for an extraordinary General Assembly meeting at the GSIS building to take up issues related to the coming SEA Games. But the meeting never got off the ground because it was ruled out of order since the schedule was set less than the required 15-day notice stipulated in the POC Constitution and By-Laws.

Romasanta, who succeeded Ricky Vargas upon his resignation as POC president last week, said all he wanted to do was to convene the General Assembly and discuss urgent matters with the SEA Games fast approaching. But since the meeting was not in order, the gathering became a platform where members quarreled and bickered. It was Philippine Football Federation secretary-general Edwin Gastanes who correctly pointed out the illegality of the meeting. 

An NSA president who flew in from the South expressed disgust over the squabbling. “This is a waste of time,” he barked. “I woke up at 1 a.m. to take a flight to Manila only to see people fighting over positions.” Romasanta said the meeting became a “kwentuhan” session with no binding effect on whatever decisions were made.

Romasanta was particularly hurt when his qualifications as POC president were questioned. “I’ve spent 33 years of my life in Philippine sports,” he said. “To question my qualifications as POC president is to impugn my integrity. I’ve challenged (POC chairman Rep.) Bambol (Tolentino) to resign if he can’t prove the allegation that I’m not qualified. And I told him if his allegation is proved correct, I will never show my face in Philippine sports ever. The rule is a POC president must have had four years of experience, not necessarily consecutive, as an NSA president of an Olympic sport. In 2016, karate was confirmed as an Olympic sport for the Tokyo Games. I’ve served two years as karate president and three years as volleyball president so the record speaks for itself.”

Despite his ruffled feelings, Romasanta said he agreed to resign his position as POC president when Tolentino called for a fresh mandate. The other POC Board members who attended the meeting also resigned. Tolentino has since called for a special election at the Golden Bay Restaurant on Macapagal Boulevard, 11:30 a.m. on July 5. The vacant positions up for election are chairman, president, first vice president, treasurer, auditor and two Executive Board members. There’s still no word on whether the three Executive Board members who didn’t attend the Tuesday meeting will give up their positions – Rep. Butch Pichay, Robert Mananquil and Jeff Tamayo. “Time for new leaders in the POC,” said a POC insider. “This is the best time. We need a clean slate so it would be best if all Executive Board members resign as a sign of unanimity.”

Romasanta, however, said it’s not that easy to call for a special election. “We should follow a process,” he said. “We don’t want to be a banana republic where we’ll have four POC presidents in one Olympic cycle. There should be an Executive Board meeting to take up the elections. There should be a COMELEC. Frank Elizalde has been nominated as COMELEC chair but he’s in Lausanne right now and we don’t know when he’s coming back. He has to agree to be chairman then appoint the two other members of the COMELEC. Then, there should be a call for the filing of certificates of candidacy. We should make the election open to all qualified General Assembly members. I don’t think it’s right to call for a special election just like that without going through the proper process. If we push through with the election, the outcome will be invalid.”

A POC source said the plan is for Elizalde to be COMELEC chair with Atty. Al Agra and a representative of an associate POC member as members.  Romasanta said it’s not a problem for him to resign as POC president. “I’m not against holding a special election,” he said. “With the vacancies, we need it. But I don’t want the special election to be invalid. If we follow the process and make sure the election is held according to the rules, then let’s do it.” Romasanta said he will not run for president in the special election.

For sure, the IOC is aware of the turmoil that’s wreaking havoc in the POC. Elizalde and IOC member Mikee Couangco-Jaworski attended the official opening of the Olympic House to coincide with the celebration of the IOC’s 125th anniversary on IOC president Thomas Bach’s invitation in Lausanne last Sunday. They weren’t at the aborted General Assembly meeting last Tuesday. The word is out in the global Olympic community that the POC is in a terrible mess. Can you imagine how this has affected the morale of the Filipino athletes now preparing for the SEA Games? If sports leaders can’t even get their act together and work as one family towards a common goal of bringing honor to the country, who will inspire the athletes to excel on the field of competition? Clearly, this is an embarrassment particularly as the country is hosting the SEA Games in a few months.

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