A PASIG City court on Wednesday declared the 2016 elections that gave Jose 'Peping' Cojuangco a fresh four-year term as Philippine Olympic Committee president null and void, ruling the POC was wrong to disqualify candidate Ricky Vargas over a technicality.
A ruling handed down by Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 34 judge Maria Gracia Cadiz-Casaclang on December 1 also ordered the country's highest Olympic body to hold a new round of elections for president and chairman on February 23.
"Finally, we have obtained justice," said Vargas' camp in a statement sent to media outlets.
Vargas' camp filed the case in November 2016 after the POC election committee disqualified the head of the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (Abap) from running against Cojuangco in the presidential poll on the ground that he was not an 'active member' of the body.
With Vargas and cycling association head Rep. Abraham Tolentino disqualified, Cojuangco and his ally, triathlon association head Tom Carrasco, won fresh terms as president and chairman, respectively.
But over a year since the controversial poll, the court ruled that the POC election committee 'acted beyond the scope of its power and authority ... when it motu proprio disqualified' Vargas and Tolentino from the POC elections.
"Moreover, the Election Committee's ground for disqualifying plaintiffs is invalid as it cannot take it upon itself to restrict or qualifiy the term 'active member' Article VII, Section 11 of the POC By-Laws as to mean physical presence in the meetings of the General Assembly," the court said.
With the election protest upheld, the court declared the 2016 election null and void in so far as the positions of president and chairman are concerned, ordered the POC to hold new elections for the two positions on February 23 with Vargas and Tolentino included as candidates.
However, the development could plunge the POC deeper into crisis since the Internatonal Olympic Committee frowns on government intervention on a national sports association's affairs, raising the possibility of a suspension for the Philippines.
The POC has yet to issue a statement at posting time.