Jose Cojuangco Jr.'s election to a third four-year term as Philippine Olympic Commitee president appeared almost certain after his supposed rival, business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, decided yesterday not to run for POC president.
After days of furious speculation that he might toss his hat into the POC ring and challenge the two-term POC president, Pangilinan ended the suspense through a text message sent by his supporters to media organizations.
"After long reflection and considerable thought, and taking into account the many complex - and challenging - factors in the assessment, especially the demands on my time which such a position entails, with a heavy heart, I have concluded that now is not the right time for me to join the POC in an executive capacity," Pangilinan said.
With Pangilinan declining what seemed to be a strong clamor for him to seek the presidency, Cojuangco has now appeared to have overcome his most formidable foe.
Without Pangilinan, the forces opposing the incumbent have practically no candidate with the same stature as the PLDT/Smart chief executive.
The election is set on November 30 at the Ayala Alabang Golf Club. Although the deadline for filing of candidacy is tomorrow, none so far has picked up the baton dropped by Pangilinan.
At this point, only Cojuangco and others identified with his ticket have filed certificates of candidacies. If no one else meets the filing deadline, Cojuangco and his ticket will be elected by acclamation.
That happened when he first sought the presidency in 2004. In 2008, then shooting association president and former Olympian Arturo Macapagal challenged Cojuangco, but he lost by one vote.
The past few weeks, Pangilinan had been urged by several sports leaders to challenge Cojuangco. But the businessman could not make up his mind.
He hosted a dinner last Monday with several sports leaders in attendance, perhaps to determine if he has the numbers and whether these leaders can be trusted at crunch time.
His decision the day after spoke volumes. He decided not to run.
Last night, it was gathered that Cojuangco also planned to host a dinner for his followers. If this one pushed through, that may have turned like an advance celebration for Cojuangco's impending victory.
Pangilinan may not be running for POC president, but the 66-year-old businessman is not turning his back on sports and will still be its most generous supporter.
He is president of the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas and his staunch ally, Ricky Vargas, is president of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines.
He also supports taekwondo, cycling, the Smart Gilas national basketball team and his companies support various sports advocacies.
"I am truly grateful to all those who expressed their support for my candidacy to the POC. Much appreciated. I know I will disappoint many of you with this decision, and for this I am really sorry."
"I must say, however, that I'm not turning my back at all on Philippine sports, that I remain committed to supporting it, that our MVP Sports Foundation will continue to extend time and resources to its orderly development, that our group stands ready to help the Filipino athletes in whatever manner we can. I ask for your kind understanding," Pangilinan said.
Cojuangco was not available for comment.
But his spokesperson, Joey Romasanta, had a parting shot at Pangilinan's most vocal supporters such as Monico Puentevella and Manny Lopez: "They're dead in the water."