2019 SEA Games: After POC shakeup, what now?

Beatrice Go
2019 SEA Games: After POC shakeup, what now?
Here's a look back at the turn of events after Ricky Vargas stepped down as POC president

MANILA, Phiilppines – Drama continues to unfold in the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) as Ricky Vargas tendered a surprise irrevocable resignation as president last Tuesday, June 18. 

But with 5 months to go until the country’s hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, let’s take a look at the turn of events that will likely impact the country’s preparations for the regional biennial meet. 

Romasanta steps in power

Joey Romasanta assumed the POC presidency as the by-laws state that the first vice president succeeds the post vacated by the president. 

Within the day he accepted the post, Romasanta vowed that he and the POC board will get more involved in the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC). (READ: New POC president looks to regroup as SEA Games hosting nears)

When Vargas was still at the helm, majority of the POC board, including Romasanta, questioned the PHISGOC for entering into contracts without their approval and even claimed that the group was not the same as the ad hoc committee they approved in 2017.

Romasanta’s first order – through the spokesman appointed by the board, Clint Aranas – was to call for an extraordinary POC general assembly on Tuesday, June 25, at the GSIS gym in Pasay in order to address the national sports associations’ SEA Games concerns. 

Moreover, the new POC under Romasanta also planned to meet with the Southeast Asian Federation in order to update the council on the latest change in leadership. 

Romasanta and some of the POC board members had also visited the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for a courtesy call to chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, who’s also Team Philippines’ chef de mission to the 2019 SEA Games


POC chairman: ‘There’s no president yet’

On Wednesday, June 19, POC chairman Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino called for a special election, citing that Romasanta is not qualified to assume the presidency post.  

“There has been no POC president since Tuesday,” said Tolentino in a press conference on Thursday, June 20. 

According to the by-laws, the POC president has to be an incumbent president of a Olympic sport-NSA. 

Romasanta is currently the vice president of the Larong Volleyball ng Pilipinas Inc (LVPI) while second vice president Antonio Tamayo is president of soft tennis, which is not an Olympic sport. 

As the POC chairman, Tolentino has the power to call for a special election under Article 7 section 6.

“A special election may be called by the chairman within 30 days from the date the vacancy arises if the named successors – first vice president and second vice president – are not qualified to succeed,” read the by-laws. 

Tolentino added that he would announce the details of the election on Tuesday, June 25 at the POC general assembly. 

Romasanta targets SEA Games franchise 

Although the POC chairman declared the presidential post vacant, Romasanta bared plans for the POC to officially claim the right to organize the SEA Games. 

Romasanta’s group emphasized that the PHISGOC Foundation, Inc. has no control over the staging of the 2019 SEA Games since POC is franchise holder of the regional biennial meet. 

“We’re not assuming something that’s not ours,” said Romasanta, an old hand in Philippine sports since the Project: Gintong Alay in the 1980s.

“We are the franchise holder of the Southeast Asian Games here in the country so we have all the rights to organize it in accordance to the mandate given to us by the Southeast Asia Games Federation Council.” 

The issue stems from the majority of the POC board’s concern that PHISGOC Foundation Inc is not the same ad hoc committee that was approved by Cojuangco in 2017. 

Romasanta’s group argued that the POC should have full control of major decisions, including the selection of the Games’ official mascot, official logo and official theme, as well as the deals with suppliers and contractors. 

But the organizational chart of PHISGOC Foundation Inc puts President Duterte-appointed Alan Peter Cayetano as the chairman, while former POC president Vargas and PSC chairman Ramirez are the co-vice chairmen.  

Cayetano fires back in PHISGOC Foundation Inc’s defense 

After debunking the questionable deals in front of many NSAs last Monday, June 17, Cayetano reiterated the legal personality of PHISGOC in a press conference after Vargas stepped down from the presidency. 

Nililito nila ang isyu (The majority of the POC board is making the issue confusing),” said Cayetano.

“They are trying to make it appear that there are two bodies – that the money won’t be scrutinized, or the contracts won’t be scrutinized, the money won’t be held accountable. That’s all wrong. There’s only one organizing committee, and there’s only one juridical entity, which is PHISGOC.” 

Cayetano also revealed that former POC president Cojuangco approved the organizational chart in 2017 as a compromise to Duterte’s decision for the country to take back its hosting rights for the 30th SEA Games. (READ: POC appeals for Philippines to host 2019 SEA Games)

We agreed na pwedeng ituloy ang SEA Games, basta’t ‘yung organizing committee gobyerno ang magnonominate ng chairman, which they nominated me,” recalled Cayetano.

(We agreed that the SEA Games can push through as long as the government will nominate the chairman, which was me.)  

So I talked to Cong. Peping, payag ba kayo? Sabi niya as long as may say kami. O so, nagkaagree kami, 1/3 of the board PSC, 1/3 of the board POC, 1/3 of the board yung government representatives. So from there hindi pa rin nagkakasundo yung board sa ibang issue.” 

(So I talked to Cong. Peping if they would agree to this arrangement? He (Cojuangco) said as long as he has a say in it. So we agreed to split it to: 1/3 of the board PSC, 1/3 of the board POC, 1/3 of the board composed of government representatives. So from there, the board has disagreed with a lot of other issues.) 

Just like the organizing committees of the country’s previous hostings of the SEA Games, he said PHISGOC was incorporated in order to become a legal entity.

Cayetano further clarified that the PHISGOC was incorporated as a foundation because it’s meant to be a non-stock, non-profit organization. – Rappler.com




Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.