Peping vs Art

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — INCUMBENT Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco will most likely go mano-a-mano with former Olympian Art Macapagal for the presidency of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

In a surprise move, former POC chief Celso Dayrit yesterday announced that he is setting aside his desire to regain the same position he once held to make way for the entry of Macapagal in the POC election set November 26.

Under their previous arrangement, Dayrit was supposed to seek another term as POC president, with the post of chairman alloted to Macapagal, the low-key president of the Philippine National Shooting Association and half-brother of President Macapagal-Arroyo.

But with the election barely two months away and Cojuangco formally declaring his intention to run for a second term, the Dayrit camp deemed it right to have its best candidate pitted against the incumbent.

“This decision was well though of. In a relay (race), you always put your best runner on the last lap. And that’s Art Macapagal. He’s the man,” said Dayrit yesterday.

Asked for a reaction, Cojuangco chose to keep quiet.

“No comment. It’s all up to them,” said Cojuangco through POC spokesperson Joey Romasanta.

Macapagal is scheduled to hold a press conference anytime this week to formalize his candidacy.

Early this year, a crowded four-way fight for the POC post emerged as Cojuangco and Dayrit sent feelers about their plan to run again, while taekwondo’s Robert Aventajado, the two-time POC chairman, and Bacolod City Representative Monico Puentevella of weightlifting both declared their interest for the position.

But with the recent developments, sources within the POC said Aventajado and Puentevella are likely to give up and support the candidacy of either Cojuangco and Macapagal.

“This is the kind of decision sports leaders make. In the POC, or in sports in general, personal interest should always come second to what’s good for the country,” Dayrit pointed out.

Aventajado is reportedly rejoining the Cojuangco camp after insiders within the group revealed that the former House Speaker is willing to offer the POC chairmanship to him once again.

Cojuangco and Aventajado, according to the same resources, are set to meet shortly after the return of the Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA) president from his U.S. trip.

Puentevella obviously will have to set aside his own ambition to become POC chief and support Macapagal’s candidacy, lest he wants to get the ire of President Arroyo, of whom he’s one of the acknowledged top supporters.

“This is the kind of decision sports leaders make. In the POC, or in sports in general, personal interest should always come second to what’s good for the country,” said Dayrit.

“We are optimistic. We can see Philippine sports regaining its lost glory,” said Dayrit.