Newly elected POC President Ricky Vargas. (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)
By Nick Giongco
Guys who were once allies hardly looked each other in the eye as though, once upon a time, they were not on the same side of the fence.
While they were civil most of the time, one could sense tension was in the air in anticipation of the biggest event so far for Philippine sports in 2018: The court-ordered Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) elections.
The camp of incumbent president Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco was bunched together near the dais, composed mostly of men in the twilight of their lives.
One solid Cojuangco supporter whispered: I think they have the numbers.
'They' referred to the party of Ricky Vargas, the boxing association big boss who draws backing from tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan.
Vargas had just been allowed by a three-man election panel headed by Frank Elizalde to run in fear that the 84-year-old former International Olympic Committee representative would be cited for contempt.
Though he maintains that he would have disqualified Vargas and his running mate, cycling head and Tagaytay congressman Bambol Tolentino had it not been for the court ruling, Elizalde may have probably sensed that it would be foolish and downright suicidal for him not to heed the tsunami alert.
As the sports leaders await the call for voting, somebody entered the function room.
Bespectacled and dressed in an off-white long-sleeve business shirt, and flanked by Vargas and key figures of his inner circle, Pangilinan shook hands, said his and hellos and exchanged pleasantries with every Tom, Dick and Harry in the house.
At one point, he even approached Cojuangco and they acknowledged each other's presence with a firm handshake.
Then Pangilinan was at it again with Vargas now being joined in the fray by men who used to say 'how high' when Cojuangco had asked them to go jump.
Pangilinan, who bankrolls the country’s mainstream sports, including basketball and boxing, was looked at and treated by those who greeted him as though the fellow walks on water or a guy who had just descended from the sky on a chariot.
From that point onwards, it was simply game over for the deflated Cojuangco, who had to be escorted out of the room by his daughter Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski, looking pitifully sad.