By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE Philippine Olympic Committee has a new president in cycling’s Abraham Tolentino after he defeated athletics’ Philip Ella Juico in special elections held on Sunday at the Century Park Hotel in Pasay City.

Called to fill up the position left by boxing’s Ricky Vargas, Mr. Tolentino was elected president over Mr. Juico, 24-20.

A total of 45 eligible voters were present but only 44 voted with the Philippine Rugby Football Union deciding not to vote.

The voters also included two representatives from the Athletes Commission as well as International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski voted in the proceedings.

The election process was overseen by the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia.

Also winning were handball’s Steve Hontiveros as chairman over taekwondo’s Robert Aventajado, 26-18, with archery’s Clint Aranas (24) and gymnastics Cynthia Carrion (23) elected as members of the executive board over weightlifting’s Monico Puntevella (21) and swimming’s Lani Velasco (19).

The elections yesterday marked the second time that the local Olympic body held and elections in just two years.

Mr. Vargas, who assumed the presidency in February 2018 after Jose Cojuangco, Jr., stepped down from his post in June to give way, he said, to other sports leaders “who would have the time and inclination needed to lead the POC.”

Prior to stepping down, Vargas made known that he has grown tired of the politics inside the Olympic body and the constant “maneuvering” among the people under him, which he described made it hard for him to dispense his duties and goals.

By virtue of succession, first vice-president Joey Romasanta assumed the POC presidency upon the exit of Mr. Vargas.

But while everybody thought the POC was ready to move on, things continued to be murky within the organization.

Contentions and allegations, including ones pertaining to the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games later this year, were flung left and right after.

Emergency meetings and press conferences and more resignations ensued, further exacerbating affairs in the POC.

Stepping in were the IOC and the OCA, seeking to have the POC leadership issue resolved at the soonest possible time lest the national sports body fall to further disarray, which would not be good for the standing of the country in the international sporting community in the long run.

The international Olympic bodies directed the POC to get a hold of itself and settle things among its members with a firmer resolution of the issue hounding it in mind.

They proposed a series of meetings by the POC, culminating in special elections of officers on July 28.

Now POC president, Mr. Tolentino, head of the Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines (PhilCycling) and congressman of the 7th district of Cavite, said he would continue the reforms started by the “immediate past president,” Mr. Vargas.

“I will continue the reforms started by the immediate president and will start working with the hosting of the SEA Games,” said Mr. Tolentino.

Mr. Juico, president of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), meanwhile, extended his congratulations to Mr. Tolentino.

“I congratulate them for winning. At the same time I want to tell them that if they need our support we are just a text or call away. Now we can concentrate on our preparations for the SEA Games,” Mr. Juico said.

Members of the electoral board were Atty. Teodoro Kalaw IV (chairman), Fr. Vic Calvo OP of Letran and Rep. Conrado Estrella III.