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POC rivals once allies

They were once allies, but now – with the Philippine Olympic Committee polls coming – the group of incumbent POC chief Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. and the one led by Ricky Vargas – have become adversaries.

The two sports giants, which worked together in the past, will be contesting the POC leadership after Vargas decided to challenge Cojuangco for the highest position of the local Olympic body. The election is scheduled Nov. 25 at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.

Vargas, who represents the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), filed his certificate of candidacy together with some members of his group including cycling’s Bambol Tolentino and basketball’s Sonny Barrios yesterday at the POC office in Pasig City.

Cojuangco, the longtime head of the Equestrian Association of the Philippines, is seeking a fourth straight term as POC president.

This is only be the second time that somebody will challenge the former Tarlac congressman. The last time was in 2008 when he won a second term by beating then shooting chief, the late Art Macapagal, by one vote.

At one time in their sports careers, the two camps have considered each one as partners since Cojuangco reportedly had a hand that led the leadership change in boxing, which placed Vargas as ABAP chief back in 2009 as he took over from Manny Lopez. The biggest move Cojuangco, however, did was when the Olympic body lifted its recognition of the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP), and Cojuangco approved the formation of Pilipinas Basketball – then led by Bernie Atienza, who is now deputy executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the country’s basketball body.

When the SBP was organized, Manny V. Pangilinan was elected president. He has since stepped down and the new president is Al Panlilio.

There is no question that Pangilinan is backing Vargas’s POC bid. Vargas is president of Maynilad, one of MVP’s flagship companies. Also running with Vargas is Sonny Barrios, the secretary general/ executive director of SBP.

Vargas said the coming POC polls is a “David versus Goliath” and he admitted being the underdog.

But win or lose, Vargas is just asking that he be allowed to run and let the voters decide.

“Just allow us to have an election, we’re not asking for anything, yun lang naman,” Vargas said.

Vargas’s fate lies in the hands of a three-man election committee headed by former International Olympic Committee member Frank Elizalde.