Despite having won a court-imposed and International Olympic Committee (IOC) supported special election, newly-minted Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Ricky Vargas cannot rest easy. Peping Cojuangco may have been dislodged as the titular head of the POC, but his sports mafia – developed through the years – continues to cast a sinister shadow in Philippine Sports.
Peping holds a slot in the all-important executive board, being the immediate past president of the POC. Worse, he also has a stranglehold on the executive board, with most of the current members still beholden to him. His influence among the many key personalities within the POC still remains. Collectively, they can still wreak havoc by skewing certain decisions in their favor. Thus, the campaign to wrest control over the national sports agenda must continue without let-up.
For his first priority, Ricky has vowed to unify the different sports bodies that were divided and consequently weakened by Peping’s high-handedness.
Case in point is volleyball, where there are two associations vying for international recognition: the original entity, the Philippine Volleyball Federation; and Peping’s creation, the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas Inc (LVPI). Both are contending to be the country’s recognized volleyball governing body. There are talks that women’s volleyball will be given a slot at the Asian Games, and the LVPI has taken the lead in the formation of the team. This tells us who has the upperhand in the struggle for recognition. With the absence of a singular governing body, programming for the men’s and women’s volleyball league schedules have been a mess, causing much confusion among players and followers, and turning off not a few fans from this wonderful sport. (Pls read: The Rape of Philippine Volleyball)
Another case is in dragonboating. The Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) was disenfranchised by Peping in 2010, after it voted against him during the 2009 POC election. Peping then placed dragon boating under the Philippine Canoe Kayak Federation (PCKF). Once revered as the rockstars in the dragonboat world, our paddlers today have lost their competitive edge and their stature as one of the world’s top teams. Dragon boating in the Philippines is a shameful mess, a sorry result of the internal squabbling in the sport. (Pls read: The Travails of Philippine Dragon Boating)
In table tennis, two associations vie for attention: the original Table Tennis Association of the Philippines (TATAP) and the Philippine Table Tennis Federation. So with Bowling, Swimming and more. These sports disciplines with many heads have triggered the nightmare in coordination and programming for the future. This has been one of the main causes leading to the embarrassing deterioration of Philippine Sports.
There are many other sports associations where the Peping-propped leadership have caused much infighting. In many cases, Peping’s select sports Mafia has reigned supreme despite rampant charges of corruption, incompetence and inactivity. In swimming, Peping refused to change an inutile, yet loyal leadership despite his notorious absenteeism and an alleged drug-abuse case. Other associations had NPAs (Non-Performing A**holes) manning the fort. (Pls read: Unmasking the Philippine Sports Mafia)
These associations will have to be scrutinized intently by a POC Arbitration Committee soonest. There is welcome progress here, as the old Arbitration Committee head – Joey Romasanta – has been replaced. Romasanta is himself a part of Peping’s Mafia and is no less the head of one such controversial association, the LVPI.
Ricky has released a new line-up for the membership of all key committees in the POC. It is a mix of old and new, partly with the view of trimming the power Peping continues to hold, while at the same time extending a hand of reconciliation to Peping inspite the fact that Peping had maliciously schemed to disqualify him from the POC elections previously.
The biggest surprise, which peeved even some core elements who worked hard for Peping’s eventual ouster, was Ricky’s decision to award the chairmanship of the Constitution Review Committee to Peping himself. No less than the consummate sports activist, Dr Perry Mequi, had said this was the “Joke of the Day” when the announcement came out.
It is amazing how Ricky can still be patient with Peping and his cohorts. He is a gentleman’s gentleman, capable of turning his left cheek after being slapped on the right. One wonders how Ricky will be able to survive the culture of scheming, maneuvering and ass-licking Peping had developed throughout his reign as President.
This is just one of the many challenges that Ricky and his new team will need to address. An insider noted that it is only now that Ricky is realizing the extent of the damage done by Peping’s years of devious management. Of careers ruined, of sports disciplines going down the drain, of precious resources wasted for patronage and all. (Pls read: A Bright New Day for Philippine Sports)
Ricky needs to show a strong resolve to undo these wrongs. Our athletes, as well as the entire sporting community, have been observing intently. They are silently praying to see a strength of character with a clear vision to bring back Philippine Sports from the dark age to a New Age of hope and great optimism. Only a clear demonstration of such will inspire our athletes, and motivate them to work even harder for the pride and glory of our country and people.