Another thorny POC issue
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2019 - 12:00am

Independent minds settled the issue of vacancies in the POC Executive Board as candidates from rival camps won, finally resolving an unsettling situation at a special election in the Century Park Hotel last Sunday.

It was encouraging that the winners didn’t come from one straight ticket. Former POC secretary-general Steve Hontiveros of handball outvoted Robert Aventajado of taekwondo, 26-18, to succeed Rep. Bambol Tolentino as chairman. Hontiveros’ running mate Popoy Juico of athletics lost to Tolentino, 24-20, in the race for the presidency. Aventajado was aligned with Tolentino. Clint Aranas of archery and Cynthia Carrion of gymnastics regained their seats in the Executive Board, polling 24 and 23. Aranas was in Hontiveros’ ticket while Carrion in Aventajado’s. Two other candidates for the Executive Board failed to make it. Monico Puentevella of weightlifting took 21 votes and Lani Velasco of swimming, 19. Puentevella was in Aventajado’s ticket while Velasco was in Hontiveros.’

The polls assembled 44 voters of whom 41 were qualified NSA officers. The others were Hidilyn Diaz and Henry Dagmil, representing the Athletes Commission and IOC member Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski. The shooting NSA abstained while the rugby NSA had no qualified representative to vote as its president and secretary-general were both out of the country and its vice president failed to attend.

There was no protest from the losers. Juico congratulated Tolentino and said he’ll always be available if the Board asks for his help or support. Juico’s gesture of sportsmanship may be a portent of things to come in the way the Board will conduct its business. No factions, no personal agendas, no politics. The POC must stand as a bastion of integrity in sports and an example of sound leadership to athletes. 

Since Tolentino has the authority to name the POC secretary-general, it appears that Patrick Gregorio will be retained. However, there may be changes in certain committee chairmanships. Former POC president Ricky Vargas of boxing may be tapped to head the Committee on Constitutional Amendments while lawyer Gen. Lucas Managuelod of muay thai may head the Membership Committee.

But all is still not well in the Board. There is a move among some quarters to retain former POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr. as a member of the Executive Board to fill the seat of the immediate past POC president. Vargas, however, served as POC president for 15 months before resigning. The contention of those pushing for Cojuangco is Vargas failed to serve the entire four-year Olympic cycle and therefore, isn’t qualified as a past POC president.

But those backing Vargas point out that the POC Constitution and By-Laws do not stipulate a time period within which a POC president must serve to qualify for recognition as an immediate past president. “Ramon Magsaysay, Abraham Lincoln, J. F. Kennedy and even Joseph Estrada failed to finish their presidential terms,” said a Vargas supporter. “Does that mean they can’t be recognized as past presidents of their countries? Trying to erase Vargas’ name from POC history as a past president isn’t just ridiculous but also smacks of an under-handed political maneuver.”

POC legal counsel Atty. Al Agra explained that “upon the resignation of the POC president, he becomes the immediate past president of the POC … thus, he continues to be a member of the Executive Board under Section 1, Article VII and Section 1, Article VIII of the POC By-Laws … the immediate past president before him shall lose his position as officer and member of the Executive Board as there was another president who served office after him … the term ‘immediate’ is plain and cannot be given another meaning.”

Those supporting Cojuangco said the term of reckoning for an immediate past president is 2016-20 so since Vargas failed to complete the cycle, he can’t be considered an immediate past president. This interpretation is not defined in the POC By-Laws.

The squabble over who should sit in the Board – Cojuangco or Vargas – should be resolved in keeping with what is fair, legal and just. The positive gains created by the POC elections will go down the drain if the Board will again toe loyalty lines in settling this dispute. If the Board can’t settle it, the issue will be brought to the General Assembly for adjudication. Does it have to come to that?

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