JUST when you thought the impasse at the Philippine Olympic Committee was finally ending, it seems not. Beleaguered POC president Peping Cojuangco just dug in his heels some more.
Now he’s saying he wants to abide by the International Olympic Committee’s advice to call a general assembly and let the body decide whether a new election should be held or not.
As conceived, the assembly, made up of 49 national sports associations, will also decide on Ricky Vargas’ eligibility for POC president. Vargas, who had gone up against Cojuangco, had been disqualified by an election committee headed by former IOC representative Frank Elizalde for not racking up enough attendance points at POC meetings, which it said was a requirement for someone running for president.
A Pasig Regional Trial Court has since ruled that the Elizalde committee, in disqualifying Vargas, had acted beyond “the scope of its power and authority.” The court has also declared Cojuangco’s election “null and void” and has ordered a new POC election for president and chairman on February 23.
Cojuangco’s camp has actually already appealed this decision, and lost in a higher court.
But now Cojuangco is brandishing an IOC letter sent to the POC a few days ago apparently saying that the court rulings be ignored and suggesting that the POC hold an extraordinary assembly to decide the election protest.
With the letter, Cojuangco feels he’s been thrown a new lifeline for holding on to his post. He is now invoking the letter as reason to ignore the two setbacks in court, and to leave his fate and that of Vargas in the hands of a general assembly.
Of course, many suspect Cojuangco has the advantage here. He has been POC president for at least 13 years, after all, and over those years it is easy to imagine that he must’ve cultivated relationships with various NSAs.
In any case, it did not take long before Cojuangco’s subalterns mounted a media offensive to put a damper on the court-ordered election. Cojuangco’s strategy of obfuscating the court rulings was implemented by his spokesman Prospero Pichay, president of the chess association.
“There’s nothing in the IOC letter saying that we should call for an election,” said Pichay as quoted by SPIN.ph last Wednesday. “The IOC just said to talk it among ourselves in the GA (general assembly) and decide if we will call for an election or not.”
Pichay said the IOC takes precedence over any court order. “Remember that the court is not in the position to order an election. This is sports. This is a private institution. The IOC is our supreme authority.”
The problem with this argument is that, when Cojuangco and his cohorts attacked government intervention after Vargas went to court, they also went to an appeals court and asked that the regional trial court’s decision be invalidated. When the appeals court turned Cojuangco and cohorts down, they now turn around and claim that the courts have no jurisdiction over them and that only the IOC has that power. They also let drop that going to court could force the IOC to suspend the Philippine Olympic Committee.
Then why oh why did they even go to court in the first place? Had the appeals court ruled in Cojuangco’s favor, this election talk would quickly have been a closed case and the IOC letter been just another ignored document.
All this, of course, point to only one thing: Cojuangco will do anything to stay on. Over the last several months, he has ignored all cries to put his POC leadership to the test.
But, as we’ve been pointing out, Cojuangco can really use the court-ordered election to put all questions about his election to rest. He has a strong following in the organization. The general assembly voted overwhelmingly to reelect him in 2016. The major sports groups are behind him. So what is there to fear really?
Hold a new election, Mr. Cojuangco. You may really win this one. Get that monkey off your back. Whatever the result, you can be sure the big winner is Philippine sports.