MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – For the first time in 13 years, the Philippine Olympic Committee has a new leader.
Boxing chief Ricky Vargas ended Peping Cojuangco's reign as POC president, which spanned more than a decade, following a 24-15 win in an election held at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong Friday, February 23.
Boxing’s Ricky Vargas ends Peping Cojuangco’s 13-year reign as POC president, 24-15. People are celebrating here. pic.twitter.com/Og0gP08fkk — delfin dioquino (@dioquinodelfin) February 23, 2018
Cycling head and Vargas' running mate Bambol Tolentino, meanwhile, will take over as the POC chairman, defeating table tennis leader Ting Ledesma, 23-15.
There were 40 national sports associations (NSAs) which voted in the election but POC Election Committee chairman Frank Elizalde said that there was one spoiled ballot while one NSA did not cast a vote in the chairmanship race.
"We will make changes for the athletes, this is for the athletes, this is for Philippine sports to succeed, this is for Philippine sports to be one again. Long live Philippine sports," said Vargas, who is closely identified with telco tycoon and sports patron Manuel V. Pangilinan.
WATCH: Here is what Ricky Vargas has to say as he takes over the POC presidency: @RapplerSports pic.twitter.com/8CeEmTt2dp — delfin dioquino (@dioquinodelfin) February 23, 2018
Initially, Vargas, who is the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines president, was disqualified from the elections held November 2016 after the POC declared him "inactive" for attending only one general assembly in two years. That paved the way for Cojuangco to secure his 4th term.
However, a Pasig court ruling rendered the 2016 elections null and void, making Vargas and Tolentino eligible for the re-election.
Cojuangco's tenure had been plagued with controversies, including the country's dwindling performance in the international stage, most notably in the Southeast Asian Games. The Philippines finished at 7th place in the 2013 SEA Games and landed at 6th place both in 2015 and 2017.
But Vargas does not want to take anything away from Cojuangco.
"We will give him his due recognition," Vargas said.
Immediately after knowing the results, Cojuangco headed to the exits together with daughter Mikee Cojuangco.
For Tolentino, what comes after the grueling process that led to the re-election is reconciliation.
"The gospel today is reconciliation," said Tolentino.
Tolentino said that they will tap the services of local government units to help with the development of Philippine sports.
Work comes next for Vargas and Tolentino, who will be heading the Philippines' preparations for the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and the 2019 SEA Games, which the country will host for the first time in 14 years.
"We're committed with the athletes. We will make this happen and we will stop all the bickering and we will make it right. I and the chairman are committed on the same things," said Vargas.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.