Vargas fighting a battle from within in bid to change culture at POC

Apr 9, 2019
PHOTO: Jerome Ascano

JUST a year and two months into the job as Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president, Ricky Vargas has learned the hard way that it's quite lonely at the top.

And that it isn't easy to do things the right way.

In as much as he wants to institute changes right away within the country’s controversy-wracked Olympic governing body, Vargas admitted it will take some more time before any transformation can happen.

And for the moment, he said he’s trying to fit in to the system currently ingrained within the organization while at the same time, also attempting to nurture the changes he want to establish.

“Where I am not comfortable in the POC is the culture, and how my own personality or leadership is being forced to a situation that I don’t like in terms of running the organization,” disclosed Vargas during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at the Amelie Hotel-Manila.

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“I’m not too happy about that and we’d like to move forward to seeing to it that the culture changes into a more transparent, more honest, and less political organization.”

Vargas and Rep. Bambol Tolentino were voted president and chairman, respectively, in 2018 after defeating Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco and Ting Ledesma in a court-ordered poll held at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.

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But getting the post of president is just one half of the job done as Vargas had to work and deal with a POC board that is a holdover from the previous administration.

As a result, well-meaning people like Vargas are finding out it's not easy to institute changes in a body that for a long time has been marred in patronage politics.

It's not easy, Vargas swore.

“So we had to live to the culture of the board that we are trying to work with,” said Vargas, who was with POC communications director Ed Picson in the session presented by San Miguel Corporation, Tapa King, Amelie Hotel-Manila, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

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“So they have many rights, procedures, tradition, and all that we’re trying to work with,” added Vargas, who’s first year in office was met by the continued unsettled leadership disputes within various National Sports Associations (NSAs), POC membership issues, changes within the POC By-Laws and Constitution, among others.

But Vargas, grandson of former Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (forerunner of POC) chairman Jorge Vargas, said he’s also looking at himself and try to work with the current norms within the Olympic body.

He added understanding the reason behind the advice of board member Butch Pichay that the POC presidency is a ‘political job’ in itself.

“I am trying to change as well if I can. If I can change, if I can live in that kind of an environment. I’m also looking at myself,” added Vargas, who has been rumored to being the subject of ouster tries several times as head of the POC.

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The good thing, Vargas said, is that he has Tolentino by his side. He has referred to the longtime cycling chief as his ‘angel.’

“He is a politician and he knows how to handle the board. That’s why I don’t want to have a board meeting without ‘Tol.’”

If there are two things he’s been proud of in his short stint as POC chief, Vargas said it has to do with the athletes and the proper governance of the organization.

“For the athletes and the proper governance of the association which is now fully recognized as seen by the IOC, by the Olympics Solidarity and by the many other associations internationally that has already congratulated us and started working with the Philippines again,” he said.

But that is just the start.

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PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
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