MANILA, July 8, 2004
By Abac Cordero  -  The race is on.

Although he has to make an official announcement, equestrian president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco has decided to run for the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) presidency and give incumbent Celso Dayrit a big run for his money when the elections are held in November.

Sources said Cojuangco, the former congressman from Tarlac, has apparently turned down a purported offer from Dayrit for a key position either at the POC or the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Philsoc) in exchange for the former’s planned candidacy.

The men behind Cojuangco’s candidacy said everything points to a tight POC elections in November. In fact, the meeting between the brother of former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and leaders of the different national sports associations (NSAs) will begin next week.

During the PSA Forum last Tuesday, Cojuangco said he planned to meet his fellow NSA leaders for an assurance that if and when he becomes the next POC chief, everybody will cooperate for the sake of unity. Otherwise, Cojuangco said there’s no point in running for the top POC post.

Cojuangco bared before PSA members that Dayrit was the first to offer him the POC presidency shortly after the 2002 Busan Asian Games. Dayrit, according to Cojuangco, had said he wanted to retire and hand over his POC position to someone "as responsible" as the equestrian chief.

But Dayrit said he did not receive any word from Cojuangco after that meeting, forcing him to reconsider his plans of retirement. The other day, Dayrit said Cojuangco can help RP sports "in a different capacity devoid of all the intrigues and day-to-day responsibilities."

Athletics chief Go Teng Kok and tennis president Buddy Andrada, Cojuangco added, urged him to run for the POC presidency after Dayrit made his initial offer. Go felt that Dayrit was just testing the waters when he offered Cojuangco his position.

Cojuangco, father of Busan Asian Games equestrian gold medalist Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski, is expected to attend today’s meeting between First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and the heads of the 34 NSAs that will be included in the 2005 SEA Games to be held in the country.

Arroyo, through Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Eric Buhain, called for the meeting to personally hear from the NSA heads what the country’s chances are in winning the overall title in the SEA Games. The Philippines fell short of just one gold when it finished second to Indonesia during the 1991 Manila SEAG.

The First Gentleman wants to ensure a victory for the Philippines and has promised to take care of the funding for the training of the national athletes. He did the same for the Busan Asiad when he initiated a pledging session at Malacañang that drew P22 million in contributions from the private sector.

Cojuangco is on the same page with Arroyo in this aspect.

"As long as these businessmen know that the money they’re donating are being used properly, it won’t be hard to ask for help. Hindi mahirap humingi. Yes, business is not that good these days but there are a lot of people still willing to help," said Cojuangco.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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