MANILA, January 4, 2005 
(STAR) By Abac Cordero  -  A lot of fingers will be crossed today when President Arroyo meets the country’s top sports officials in Malacañang.

Although the meeting will center on the P800 million budget which the country needs to host next year’s SEA Games, those present will all be hoping and waiting for the President to officially name the new chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

Exactly 20 days after Eric Buhain announced his transfer as chairman of the PSC to the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), no official word has come out of Malacañang on who will replace the former swimming champion as head of the P500 million-a-year government sports agency.

A wild guessing game involving a lot of names has taken place since Buhain broke news of his transfer on Dec. 15. But as long as Malacañang stays mum on the issue, nothing should be considered official, not even recent reports that a PSC officer-in-charge (OIC) has already been named.

Butch Ramirez, a five-year commissioner under two Presidents, is among the race favorites along with Ateneo sports director Jun Jun Capistrano and Manila sports official Ali Atienza. The names of former PSC commissioner Ray Roquero and Eli Bontigao and another hopeful, sports columnist Fred Lumba, have been mentioned just the same.

There‘s even a possibility that the new chairman is none of the above.

"That’s always a possibility," said a PSC insider who is just as eager as the candidates for the sensitive and at times controversial position.

Another source, a former PSC commissioner, said the President is not about to name the new chairman and is more inclined to naming an OIC who, he said, "will be asked to take over for quite a while."

Go Teng Kok, who heads both the athletics and chess associations, has even suggested that Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, the newly-elected president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), be named PSC chairman, too.

"It’s been done here before and is still being done in other countries. So why can’t we do it?" said Go, referring to the former set-up in the ‘80s when Michael Keon was named director of Project: Gintong Alay (the equivalent of the PSC) and at the same time headed the POC.

The President, who appointed Buhain to the PSC in January of 2002, should be weighing her options too hard since the new PSC chief will carry a tremendous responsibility and huge expectations as the country prepares to host the 23rd SEA Games on Nov. 27 to Dec. 5.

Scheduled to meet the President at 2 p.m. are Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Philsoc) chairman Roberto "Obet" Pagdanganan, vice chairman Cojuangco, president Celso Dayrit and secretary-general Steve Hontiveros. Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella, an active Philsoc member, and Ramirez will join the meeting.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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