Dawn of a new era: Vargas unseats Cojuangco in POC elections reboot
In an election that morphed into some sort of bizarre spectator sport, boxing association’s Ricky Vargas came through with a stunning victory Friday to unseat incumbent president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., ending a Philippine Olympic Committee rule that lasted 14 years.
Immediately after the election, Vargas extended a hand to Cojuangco and his supporters saying “it’s all over, we have to reconcile.”
But the 83-year-old Cojuangco, whose fourth term as POC chief was cut short, declined for the meantime.
“Saka na, baka makapagbitaw lang ako ng masama (salita), magpapatawag na lang ako ng meeting (Maybe some other time; I might say something I might regret later. I will just call a meeting),” said Cojuangco before walking out of Wack Wack Golf and Country Club’s function hall.
Vargas garnered 24 votes against Cojuangco’s 15. Cycling’s Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino also won the chairmanship, besting table tennis’ Ting Ledesma, 23-15.
Forty three votes were cast, including that of Cojuangco’s daughter Mikee Jaworski in her capacity as International Olympic Committee representative to the country.
Vargas, who will turn 66 on Saturday, got a big morale boost from the presence of PLDT/Smart CEO Manny V. Pangilinan, who immediately pledged P20 million as seed money for the POC.
“I hope we can use it properly—and we will,” said Vargas, who will serve the remaining term of Cojuangco that will last until after the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Boxers and coaches cheered as the final ballot was tallied, celebrating Vargas’ victory that until the last two weeks seemed impossible. He and Tolentino were disqualified in the Nov. 25, 2016 elections for lack of attendance in general assembly meetings as defined by the POC rules on active membership.
But they secured ruling from the Regional Trial Court of Pasig calling for a reelection and allowing them to run. And the POC, ordered by the International Olympic Committee to resolve the leadership issue on their own, eventually accepted their candidacies.
Joey Romasanta, Cojuangco’s long-time lieutenant until they had a falling out last year, immediately left after casting his vote in the elections done via secret balloting.
Romasanta, concurrent president of karate and volleyball, had influence on the votes of canoe/kayak and soft tennis.