Spotlight on SEA Games triumph, controversy as PH Olympic body holds elections

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Nov 27 2020 07:29 AM

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Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino touts the outstanding success of the Filipino campaigners in the 30th Southeast Asian Games as one of his achievements in his stint as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee.

It is the same 30th SEA Games managed -- or mismanaged, some quarters alleged mismanaged -- by the controversy-ridden Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee chaired by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano that could prove to be his undoing.

Archery chief and POC executive board member Atty. Clint Aranas has been among the most vocal critics of the PHISGOC for its overdue report, including the audited financial statements, it has been unable to produce since the event concluded on Dec. 11, 2019, or nearly a year ago.

Tolentino and Aranas are vying for presidency on Friday of the POC, which will chart the course of the country’s major international sports commitments, such as the Olympic Games, Asian Games and SEA Games, among others in the next four years.

Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines president Tolentino was one of the architects of the country’s successful campaign in recapturing the Games overall crown, with a rich harvest of 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals.

As the PHISGOC sports director and with a “win-at-all-costs” mentality, Tolentino was the mastermind behind the 56 disciplines chosen in the regional sports spectacle in the bid to regain the coveted championship.

The POC chief, however unwittingly also exposed himself to speculation that he was compensated for his services in the SEA Games in possible violations of both the POC and IOC charters, which, in fact, the Aranas camp used as the bases in petitioning for his disqualification.

Tolentino dodged the bullet when the POC electoral committee headed by Atty. Teddy Kalaw III dismissed the petition for lack of evidence to rule on the matter, although there remained some lingering doubt in some POC quarters over the issue.

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There have been a few who view the Tagaytay Congressman as playing a significant role in having the stipends of athletes and coaches in the national pool fully restored through the P178 million contained in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act 2.

This insertion was needed after the remittances of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to the National Sports Development Fund of the Philippine Sports Commission were slashed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That 993 athletes and 285 coaches in the national pool on top of the 251 para athletes and 76 para coaches will have a merry Christmas can be credited to Tolentino’s lobbying in the lower House.

The quandary for some sports pundits, however, remained as the POC chief’s lukewarm response to the POC general assembly’s plea last September 30 to compel PHISGOC to submit the spending report to the POC based on the agreement it signed with the POC and the PSC on August 15, 2019.

This was the same agreement Tolentino signed more than three weeks after he was elected the new POC president on July 28, 2019, beating athletics chief Philip Ella Juico 24-20, to serve the remaining term of Ricky Vargas, who stepped down citing personal and business reasons.

Besides the financial statements, there were other conditions in that agreement that the PHISGOC had allegedly already failed to fulfill, including the POC’s oversight of its operations since the POC is the “franchise holder” of the SEA Games.

By seemingly cutting the PHISGOC some slack, Tolentino’s loyalties -- whether to the PHISGOC or to the POC -- have been questioned.

POC second vice-president Col (ret.) Jeff Tamayo, who has been on the POC board for more than a decade, has gone on record that this apparent dilly-dallying is putting the local Olympic body in a bad light.

“They (Tolentino and his allies) are playing games with us. Lahat nilalaro nila. (They are playing all of us),” said the former national taekwondo athlete and coach.

“This (PHISGOC report) is holding us too long. They (the Tolentino camp) are holding us too long we cannot move on.”

Despite these issues, Tolentino, who has not lost in his political career since running as a councilor, mayor and congressman of Tagaytay, is confident he has the numbers.

It will be up to the 54 voters on Friday whether he keeps his winning streak going or not.