June 21, 2019
With only five months to go before the 2019 SEA Games formally unfolds in Manila and various cities in the country from November 30 to December 11, national preparations for the games have been hit by an almost irreparable blow.
Ricky Vargas, president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and, perhaps, the single most important member of the management committee for the games, has tendered his irrevocable resignation as POC president following a major dust-up with the committee’s executive board.
This is no ordinary misunderstanding that can be patched up with band aid. This is a crisis within the POC.
Three weeks ago on May 27, in a prelude to his resignation, Vargas issued a series of firing decisions from the Olympic committee.
He fired from the POC executive board his predecessor and POC board member, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., membership committee head Robert Bachmann, 30th Southeast Asian Games Chef de Mission Monsour del Rosario, his deputy Charlie Ho, and POC first vice president Joey Romasanta, among others, for convening POC executive board meetings without informing him or clearing matters with him.
Vargas similarly fired the following POC officials for attending the unauthorized board meetings: Jeff Tamayo, Julian Camacho, Jonne Go, Clint Aranas and International Olympic Committee Representative Mikee Cojuangco.
How could this misfortune befall the Olympic committee at this critical time? Why could the rift not be healed with the resolve to reason together?
We think this is a symptom of a malignant disease that gnaws at the heart of the POC and the organization of Philippine sports in general.
When Mr. Vargas was elected POC president in a much publicized election two years ago, we, along with many others, hoped that after his accession to office, there would follow a housecleaning and policy reforms that would establish accountability and leadership in the POC.
We said in the Times the new beginning would put an end to what many have tagged as the POC mafia mismanaging Philippine sports.
It now appears that what took place, instead, was a fierce struggle between the old mafia and the new group of Mr. Vargas.
Through their seats in the executive board and allies in the organization, the mafia stymied the policies and initiatives of the POC president.
Things came to a head when the differences started to affect the preparations and business of the 2019 SEA Games.
In tendering his resignation, Vargas simply declared:
“This is to inform the Executive Board of the Philippine Olympic Committee that I am tendering my irrevocable resignation from the post of president of the organization, effective immediately.
“After much introspection, I have determined that there would be other sports leaders who would have the time and inclination needed to lead the POC more effectively.
“I ask for the understanding of all concerned, most especially the athletes and NSAs (National Sports Associations) who have supported my initiatives in the organization.”
The problem does not stop with just the POC. It also involves the nation.
Under its Constitution and bylaws, the POC is the sole authority “responsible for the representation of the Philippines at the Olympic Games, Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games, as well as other events held under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia, and for the organization of these Games when they are held in the Philippines.”
This indisputably includes the 2019 SEAG, which will now require full review concerning its organization and management.
A number of people, including a politician and some old POC officials, have issued brave talk that the SEAG will definitely go on and be a success.
The nation will not be satisfied with cheap talk. It needs assurance that our sports community can provide competent leadership and management for the 2019 SEA Games.
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