Ricky Vargas reaches out to predecessor Peping Cojuangco as POC leadership officially turned over
Peping Cojuangco formally turned over the POC flag to Ricky Vargas after the board meeting in the presence of Bambol Tolentino, Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, and outgoing secretary-general Steve Hontiveros.

PHILIPPINE Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas extended the hand of reconciliation as his first official move upon presiding over the first board meeting of the country’s Olympic governing body with him at the helm.

Vargas was humble enough to reach out to predecessor Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco, whom he defeated in a contentious election last Feb. 23 to end the long 13-year reign of the former congressman from Tarlac.

Cojuangco was present in Tuesday’s board meeting held at the POC office at the Philsports Complex in Pasig together with daughter Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative to the country, and Vargas wasted no time in patching things up between them.

“This exercise has brought us many hurts and partisan politics, and I offer my hand as I have offered it to Mikee and president Cojuangco privately in reconciliation,” said Vargas, whose grandfather, Jorge Vargas, was a founding member of the POC and once served as chairman.

“The election is finished and for Philippine sports, I seek everybody’s cooperation. Who knows one of these days, we may still learn to be good friends after this whole exercise,” he added.

As immediate past president, the 83-year-old Cojuangco becomes an outright member of the POC board along with daughter Mikee.

Others present include newly-elected chairman Bambol Tolentino, Patrick ‘Pato’ Gregorio, the newly-named secretary-general, 2nd second Vice President Jeff Tamayo, auditor Jonne Go, and directors Robert Mananquil, Prospero Pichay, Cynthia Carrion, and former IOC representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde.

Not around were 1st Vice President Joey Romasanta, treasurer Julian Camacho, and director Clint Aranas.

New deputy secretary general Karen Caballero of sepak takraw also didn’t attend the board meeting, but showed up during a separate meeting with people belonging to the inner circle of Vargas.

Cojuangco formally turned over the POC flag to Vargas after the board meeting in the presence of Tolentino, Cojuangco-Jaworski, and outgoing secretary-general Steve Hontiveros.

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Vargas later commended both Cojuangco and Hontiveros for their enduring services to the country’s Olympic body.

“I also wish to acknowledge the many sacrifices and accomplishments of President Cojuangco and look forward to his continued support, and thank the staff for a seamless transition so far,” said Vargas, who is also chairman of the PBA Board.

“I accept the resignation of secretary-general Steve Hontiveros with much regret,” Vargas said of the long-time POC official and former president of bowling association.

The POC president also requested the board to acknowledge his choices of Gregorio and Caballero as part of his core group.

“He’s been working with us for a long time. He was secretary-general of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), secretary-general for eight years in boxing, and currently its vice-president,” said Vargas of Gregorio. “He comes from a family of sports people, they do love sports, and he’s one person I worked with for 15 years, both in the corporate life and the many thing that we started together.”

As for Caballero, Vargas said he liked being managed by women.

“She’s young, aggressive, and a strong lady,” he said of the sepak takraw association president.

Immediately, Vargas appointed Robert Aventajado of taekwondo to head the arbitration committee that will look into the leadership disputes plaguing several National Sports Associations (NSAs). Aventajado is joined by Robert Bachmann of squash and Charlie Ho of netball.

“We need to get that done,” said Vargas.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos