A regional court has ordered that the re-election of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. as President of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) last year was null and void and that a re-run must take place in February 2018.
The decision, which risks incurring the wrath of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) for violating its principles of Government interference, follows the controversial exclusion of Ricky Vargas and Abraham Tolentino from the ballot in elections held in November 2016.
The two officials, who respectively lead the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines and PhilCycling, had been hoping to stand for the positions of President and chair but were disqualified on a General Assembly attendance technicality.
Vargas had been considered a particularly strong contender.
Former Congressman Cojuangco, 83, the POC President since 2004 whose daughter Mikaela Cojuangco-Jaworski is a member of the IOC, was duly elected unopposed for a fourth term in office.
He only received 26 out of 40 votes, however, despite the lack of opposition.
“This Court rules that the POC Election Committee acted beyond the scope of its power and authority granted to it by the POC Executive Board, and had violated its own POC Election rules, when it motu proprio disqualified Mr. Vargas and Mr. Tolentino from the list of candidates for the 2016 POC elections,” read the decision issued by Judge Maria Garcia Cadiz-Casaclang of the Pasig Regional Trial Court.
“Moreover, the election committee’s ground for disqualifying plaintiffs Mr. Vargas and Rep. Tolentino is invalid as it cannot take it upon itself to restrict or qualify the term 'active member' Article 7, Section 11 of the POC by-laws as to mean physical presence in the meetings of the General Assembly.”
The POC Election Committee was chaired by Frank Elizalde, the 85-year-old IOC honorary member widely seen as an ally of Cojuangco, who also headed the IOC Nominations Commission between 2003 and 2014.
It is thought likely that the POC will now challenge the court decision.
“In my opinion, Government intervention is not right because there are rules to be followed,” Cojuangco, who has claimed that he has not yet received a copy of the court decision, told the Manila Standard.
The official also reportedly highlighted the suspension of Kuwait from the IOC for "Government interference" in 2015, which remains in force today.
Vargas, on the other hand, said that the court order validates the fight for democracy in the POC.
“All we want is to give National Sports Organisations a choice,” he told the Manila Times.
“We want a democratic election.”
Hidilyn Diaz became the first Filipino Olympic medallist in 20 years after claiming an under 53 kilograms weightlifting silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
insidethegames has contacted Cojuangco, the POC and the OCA for a reaction.