MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) will continue to be headed by current President Peping Cojuangco for another four years, or until the next Olympics.
This, after the lone challenger for the POC presidency, athletics chief Go Teng Kok, backed out of the presidential race just two days before the November 30 elections.
Go was disqualified by the POC election committee for being classified as persona non grata, a decision Go said he would challenge.
Instead, he changed his mind and chose not to run last minute.
Go said the decision was a “personal” one. He was quoted as saying he was tired of Philippine sports and that he plans to step down from his post as the head of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association.
The announcement came as a surprise. Just an hour earlier, Go adamantly told media personalities that he would fight Cojuangco, and earlier that day, had even filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) with the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC), asking them to stop the POC presidential elections and to nullify the POC decision disqualifying his candidacy.
It is unclear what suddenly changed Go’s mind.
The POC leadership contest has had its share of drama since the beginning.
A few months back, wealthy businessman and sports enthusiast Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) was being pushed to challenge Cojuangco, a demand ignited by the clamor for improvement from National Sports Associations (NSAs) which vote for the POC leadership.
MVP eventually decided not to run saying it wash’t the right time for him to join the POC in an executive capacity, leaving Go as Cojuangco’s sole opponent.
But with Go backing out, the 78-year-old Cojuangco is poised for his third term in office.
Athletics chief Go filed his candidacy for president on Friday, October 26, just hours before the deadline, in a move to challenge his archival Cojuangco.
He has been quoted as saying that he would back down if someone else challenged Cojuangco.
Go’s candidacy was questioned by the POC election committee however, after having been earlier declared persona non grata by the POC board and expelled by the POC General Assembly for suing top POC officials including Cojuangco over the Philippine Karatedo Federation (PKF) leadership.
Go, who used to serve as president of the PKF, sued Cojuangco for electing a new PKF president and allegedly ousting him.
Since the decision to expel Go from the POC however, Go successfully obtained a TRO on his expulsion from the Pasig RTC, which declared that Go was not given due process before he was expelled.
The POC then filed a petition with the Supreme Court to challenge the RTC’s decision, but the petition has been dismissed by the High Court.
Go said that with the backing of the Supreme Court nullifying his declaration as persona non grata, he should be eligible to run for POC president.
Despite the Supreme Court decision, Go’s candidacy was not accepted by the election committee of the POC, headed by former congressman Victorico Chaves and composed of La Salle’s Bro. Bernard Oca and Ateneo de Manila University’s Ricky Palou.
The committee initially decided not to disqualify Go from running for president, but asked that in order for Go to run, he must first submit a copy of the Supreme Court decision backing his candidacy.
But later, the election committee changed its mind again and decided not to allow Go to run at all, in fear of angering the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“He is not allowed to run because as far as the election committee is concerned, he is not part of the POC, he isn’t a member,” Palou told Rappler over the phone.
“We reviewed it thoroughly, the fact that it could affect the POC in the International Olympic Committee, and they might construe this as government intervention,” he said, adding that they did not want the POC to be suspended or even expelled.
When asked why Cojuangco then turned to the Supreme Court to try to appeal the RTC’s decision expelling Go, if that too could be viewed as government intervention, Palou said that was Cojuangco’s own interpretation.
He said the decision not to include Go was the committee’s alone, and denied that they have had any communication with Cojuangco.
The committee’s decision and definition of government intervention has been questioned by critics.
It was upon learning of the committee’s decision when Go filed for a TRO with the Pasig RTC to stop the elections, but after suddenly deciding he would no longer run, Go withdrew the TRO he filed just hours earlier.
While Cojuangco will run unopposed, a group led by POC first vice president Manny Lopez is set to challenge his ticket.
The strategy, according to Lopez, is to fill the POC with like-minded leaders who are looking for change.
“We may not have a candidate for the president post but we have come up with a lineup that can push reforms for Philippine sport. We can sill create change and assert ourselves by sheer numbers,” Lopez was quoted as saying in a report.
The group is backed by MVP.
Lopez is aiming to remain first vice president, and will challenge Joey Romansanta of karate, who is under Cojuangco’s slate.
Those running with Lopez include Monico Puentevella of weightlifting who is seeking the POC chairmanship, Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino of cycling for 2nd vice president and Romeo Ribano of squash for treasurer. Four others are vying for executive board positions.
Meanwhile Cojuangco’s ticket is composed of Romasanta, Tom Carrasco for chairman, Jeff Tamayo for 2nd vice president, Julian Camacho for treasurer, Prospero Pichay for auditor and four others for board members.
Cojuangco has been under fire for the declining performance of Filipino athletes in international competitions during his tenure – including the dismal showing of the Philippine delegation in the 2012 London Olympics.
He has also been accused of malversation of funds during the 2005 Philippine Southeast Asian Games. – Rappler.com