MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas on Monday announced that he will make changes to the organization, during a general assembly attended by several national sports association (NSA) members in Pasig City.
In a lengthy speech, Vargas lamented the efforts made to allegedly "undermine my leadership, my efforts for reform, and my integrity."
He noted that he was seen "as an interloper, an outsider" and that he was "unwelcome" by members of the POC board.
Vargas was elected POC president in February 2018, ending Peping Cojuangco's 13-year stranglehold on the position. However, on Monday he said that the board, outside of chairman Abraham Tolentino and secretary-general Patrick Gregorio, remained stuck "in their old political ways."
"(They) would have made me a lame duck and a puppet," he said. "This is unacceptable to me. This was not what I signed up for, nor what I was elected to be."
Vargas said his efforts to make changes in the POC are being undermined by these board members, but he refuses to be intimidated.
The POC Ppesident also revealed on Monday that seven board members held a special board meeting last month "without my approval or absence," with neither Tolentino nor Gregorio present as well. Attending the meeting were Clint Aranas, head of archery, former POC president Cojuangco, 1st vice president Joey Romasanta, 2nd vice president Jeff Tamayo, and treasurer Julian Camacho. IOC representative Michaela Cojuangco-Jaworski was also present.
In the wake of these events, Vargas exercised his executive functions and made changes to the appointments of the people involved.
Robert Bachmann was replaced as chairman of the Membership Committee by General Lucas Managuelod of the Muay Thai Association of the Philippines.
Vargas also removed Cojuangco from his post as chairman of the Constitutional Amendments Committee, and resolved to chair the committee himself until a replacement is named.
He also recalled the appointment of Monsour del Rosario as chef-de-mission to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which the Philippines will host in November. He also recalled Charlie Ho as deputy chef-de-mission.
"We need individuals who will provide the necessary time and attention to our athletes, protect them, and shield them from political issues," he said. "I will announce their respective replacements in the next few days."
Romasanta was removed as chef du mission to the Tokyo Olympics, with Tolentino nominated to take over the position.
"The individuals I mentioned have lost my trust and confidence," said Vargas. "I can no longer have them in these positions."
However, these officials still remain on the POC board.
Vargas also affirmed his appointment of Karen Caballero of sepak-takraw as the POC deputy secretary-general.
Amid all the changes, Vargas also proposed to "allow the holding of the SEA Games without obstruction."
"This is vital," he stressed. "The image of our country is at stake, and this is an opportunity our athletes have been looking forward to."
Afterward, however, he called for elections to be held in January 2020, instead of waiting until after the Olympics.
"I will campaign hard for deserving candidates who will fight for reforms and good governance in the POC," said Vargas. "I will still be here if needed, but I am done with the politics."
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