by: Bill Velasco
The Game of My Life (Philippine Star, 22 Sept 2018)
(Bill is one of a few sports journalists who is not scared to write about the ills of sports politics. Here, he talks about the ongoing maneuvers to try to stage a coup in the POC. I hope that everyone understands what the stakes are in regard Philippine sports. If Peping and his Mafia – from Joey Romasanta, Steve Hontiveros, Junnie Go, the politicians Chavit Singson and Butch Pichay, Jet Tamayo, Julian Camacho, Mikee Cojuangco, etc – are allowed to wrest control of the POC, we will see the dreaded return of sports politics. And with that the demise of Philippine sports, and ultimately, the further decline of the Filipino people. It is time the people make their voices heard. Let us stop these people from ruining the next generation of Filipinos.)
Things are coming to a head in the Philippine Olympic Committee. The new administration pulled up the rug, and are finding everything that’s been swept under there. There are specific personalities in the past and present POC who have a habit of trying to subvert the efforts of the new leadership to clean house. Now, their motivation is clear: to protect themselves from formal procedures investigating and imposing sanctions against them. Their backroom dealings done in the dark are now being brought to light. Their attempts at hiding and parrying queries are going to be brought before an upcoming General Assembly.
In fact, the group hasn’t even bothered to hide their offenses. Instead, they engage in finger-pointing among themselves and other obfuscation, all in a desperate attempt to avoid incriminating themselves even after they’ve been caught red-handed. The POC Board is verifying documentary evidence that irrefutably proves wrongdoing. Once verified, those found guilty – mainly the usual suspects – will face due process.
One of the main issues concerns tens of thousands of dollars in Olympic Solidarity funds, which appears to have been divided among a handful of past POC officials. The absence of valid liquidation of this alleged misappropriation has prompted the Olympic Solidarity to notify POC president Ricky Vargas that it will suspend the annual allocation of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Philippines. In a possibly related development, alarmed national athletes have been calling POC Board members, complaining that they have not been receiving their competition allowances from Olympic Solidarity.
Instead of answering the charges or even going to the POC office to clear their names, those involved are taking steps to escalate, in an attempt to unseat – or gain revenge – against Vargas and anyone who brings them to task for their misdeeds. On the day national athletes were feted and given their incentives in Malacañang Palace for medaling in the Asian Games, that was when they went to the POC. Obviously, no one was there to receive them. One of them has supposedly complained of not having their side heard, but has so far refused to appear at the POC any time there are warm, sentient bodies present. If it weren’t so pathetic, it would be ridiculously hilarious, a modern-day Keystone Cops slapstick routine.
On the other hand, the unrepentant group has also begun forming alliances with other national sports association heads with aspirations of glory. One, a powerful politician, has already come out in a tabloid accepting the challenge. Unfortunately, the said politician does not yet have residency in his NSA. Besides, a call for a vote of “no confidence” can only be made after the incumbent POC head has served at least one year of his term. So that gambit won’t work yet.
The POC Executive Board had a scheduled meeting the past week. Needless to say, those being investigated did not attend, resulting in a lack of quorum. There are other issues that have likewise taken a back seat for the moment, such as allegations that at least one vehicle owned by the POC has not yet been returned. Other allies of those wanting to expel Vargas and company have been acting as intermediaries to get him to play ball with them, to pollute his agenda with theirs. Of course, Vargas has refused their entreaties. So here we are.
With the lack of cooperation and brazen threats of a coup as a backdrop, the POC will hold a General Assembly, where all of the facts will be brought to the majority. The firmly-worded notice from POC secretary-general Pato Gregorio makes it clear that everyone is expected to be there. Hopefully, both sides will be heard. But it will not be surprising if the other side will not attend, then claim there was no majority, or that their side was not heard. We’ve seen it done before.
All these actions represent tremendous wasted time and energy, which should have been better used in serving the athletes. Some of these machinations have influenced the activity (or lack thereof) of certain committees activated for the express purpose of making the POC work better. But even if you have the best thoroughbred, a lousy rider won’t make it go. The STAR will also look into the agendas of various POC committee heads who have been moving glacially, because of personal agendas.
It is now abundantly clear that some people in the POC have never been after the welfare of the athletes, but look at them instead as indentured servants. The problem they now face is a leadership that will not back down or bend over for them.
So how bad does it have to get?
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