Former POC chief Vargas backs resolution on SEA Games spending report

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Oct 20 2020 04:26 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2020 09:27 AM

Former Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas personally came out Monday in support of the POC general assembly resolution of Sept. 30 asking the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) for its delayed report, including the audited financial statements, on the 30th SEA Games last December.

“I am very supportive of this resolution because it is something that is correct and right for the POC to ask for that,” Vargas, the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines president, pointed out.

“We are requesting an accounting from PHISGOC, specifically Tats Suzara, because I don’t think that they were able to answer it,” stressed Vargas, who sits on the POC Executive Board as its immediate past president.

He was referring to PHISGOC Foundation Inc. president and chief operating officer Ramon “Tats” Suzara.

“That (submission of the PHISGOC report) should be done. I and the POC are not hiding anything,” he stressed after PHISGOC failed to meet the Oct. 10 deadline set by the local Olympic body in submitting the report, the financial statements included.

The stand of Vargas is opposed to that of POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, who has demurred on the POC motion and said that he was giving PHISGOC more time to complete its report.

PHISGOC, which had former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as chairperson, was the operations and management arm of the 30th SEA Games that ended on Dec. 11, 2019.

Furnishing the local Olympic body with the report was among the conditions that PHISGOC signed in an agreement with the POC and Philippine Sports Commission on Aug. 15, 2019, so the national government could release the P6 billion in funds to run the SEA Games. 

This is long overdue since Commission on Audit rules require recipients of government funds, like PHISGOC, to complete its liquidation in 60 days. 

Vargas, citing personal and business reasons, resigned as POC president on June 18, 2019.

This led the POC to call for a special election July 28, 2019 where Tolentino, who was then the POC chairman, got elected after beating athletics chief Philip Ella Juico, 24-20.

“We appreciate this statement of support of the POC resolution by Mr. Vargas because it affirms our quest for transparency and integrity in the POC,” noted World Archery of the Philippines president and POC Executive Board member Atty. Clint Aranas.

Aranas will contest Tolentino for the POC top post in the POC polls scheduled on Nov. 27.

He disclosed that he and six other members of the 13-member POC board yesterday received a letter from POC secretary-general Atty. Edwin Gastanes, citing a “technicality,” to turn down the special meeting they requested for Thursday to discuss the issue.

“The majority of the current board is eight,” Gastanes replied last Oct. 18 in a letter to the board members in explaining the reason why the petition was declined. 

“Your letter of 15 October 2020 to the undersigned POC secretary general, represented to be signed by seven members of the POC Executive Board requesting for a special meeting on Oct. 22 did not trigger the implementation of Section 4, Article VIII of the POC constitution,” the POC secretary-general said. 

“The President upon his own instance, or upon the request addressed to the Secretary General, may call a special meeting of the Executive Board,” the provision states. 

“Mr. Nikko Huelgas, the Athletes’ Commission representative to the board, is the 14th member. His place on the board is in compliance with the IOC guidelines on Athletes’ Commission which was issued in 2015 and most recently revised by the IOC Executive Board on 26 March 2019,” Gastanes noted.

“Under the IOC guidelines, the AC representative to the board has voting right,” Gastanes added. “This was also the gist of my reply to a similar letter made by you on 10 August 2020.

“Factually, Mr. Huelgas has been recognized by the board and confirmed by the POC General Assembly. He has been allowed to cast his vote most recently during the deliberations to the proposed amendments to the constitution.”

Huelgas is a back-to-back SEA Games men’s triathlon gold medalist and is affiliated with the Triathlon Association of the Philippines led by Tom Carrasco, who is running as chairman on the ticket of Tolentino. 

Also a signatory to the Oct. 15 letter, POC first vice president Joey Romasanta pointed out that while Huelgas was allowed to attend the board meetings “nothing in our POC constitution and by-laws states that he is an official member of the POC executive board. Nothing is set in stone.”

Romasanta cited Article VIII Section 1 of the POC charter that the “chairman, president, IOC members (if any), first vice president, second vice president, treasurer, auditor, four board members and immediate past president,” make up the board.

He also cited the by-laws in section 1.5 to the rules 27 and 28 of the IOC charter where it states that “the officers and members of the executive body of an NOC shall be elected in accordance with the NOC’s statutes, for a term of office not exceeding four years; they may be eligible for re-election.”

“With due respect to Mr. Huelgas, under the charter of the POC and IOC, he is not yet an official member of our board,” Romasanta stressed.

The former Project Gintong Alay executive director said “as responsible POC officers” they were only acting on behalf of the POC general assembly in asking for the PHISGOC report. 

“What is so controversial about the financial statements? The delay in its submission and gives the impression that the POC is protecting PHISGOC,” Romasanta said. “Having these documents available to the POC now will solve a lot of problems and answer a lot of questions.”