Abraham Tolentino has been elected President of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) after he beat rival Philip Ella Juico by four votes during specially convened elections held in Manila today.
Tolentino, President of the Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines and a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, claimed 24 votes while Juico received 20 in an election watched by International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) observer Narinder Batra.
The 55-year-old replaces Ricky Vargas, who resigned last month because of a dispute linked to the nation's troubled preparations for this year's Southeast Asian Games.
Tolentino, who served as chairman under Vargas before stepping down to run for President, said he was hopeful the result of the election marked the end of the "squabble" within the POC.
"I think as the saying goes: 'set aside the differences and move forward, let's all be united because we're preparing to focus on the Southeast Asian Games and next year – the Para Games and Olympics," he said.
Tolentino's running-mate Robert Aventajado failed in his bid to become chairman as he lost to Juico's ally Steve Hontiveros by 26 votes to 18.
According to reports, Tolentino, who will serve in the role until fresh elections are held next June, is set to appoint Patrick Gregorio as his secretary general.
Winners of POC election here at the Century Park Hotel headed by newly-elected President Abraham Tolentino and Chairman Steve Hontiveros. pic.twitter.com/lj183UaUaa— Josef T. Ramos (@tmtjoseframos) July 28, 2019
Cynthia Carrion, the head of the country's gymnastics federation, and archery chief Clint Aranas resigned from their board positions last month but were re-elected today.
Aranas and Carrion secured 24 and 23 votes, respectively, to fend off competition from Monico Puentevella of weightlifting and Lailani Velasco of aquatics.
According to ESPN, the Philippine Rugby Football Union and the Philippine National Shooting Association were the only two bodies not to cast a vote.
The IOC and OCA had ordered the POC to hold elections after Vargas' sudden departure sparked a crisis at the National Olympic Committee, which has overshadowed the build-up to the Southeast Asian Games.
Tolentino's first job will be to unite those involved in the organisation of the Games, due to take place from November 30 to December 11.
He will be expected to ensure the POC works closely with a monitoring committee established by the Malacañang, the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the Philippines, to oversee preparations.
The row at the POC centres on the creation of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (PHISGOC) Foundation, which the POC Board alleges was set up without its approval.
Members of the POC believe an Ad-hoc Committee, established in 2017, is the main body spearheading preparations for the multi-sport event.