MANILA, August 9, 2005 
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - The brewing leadership crisis among the stakeholders of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Philsoc) came to a head when President Arroyo yesterday decided to reduce Philsoc chairman Roberto "Obet" Pagdanganan’s role to a mere ceremonial head of the body.

Sources said the President decided to virtually make Pagdanganan a mere figurehead during a meeting with Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William "Bucth" Ramirez, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella and other sports officials in Malacañang yesterday.

The Palace source said Mrs. Arroyo was forced to make the decision following mounting complaints from various sports organizations and other stakeholders of the event, barely more than a hundred days before the staging of the biennial meet on Nov. 27-Dec. 5.

"Obet would just preside over (Philsoc) meetings and nothing more than that," the Palace official said. "There’s a sort of leadership crisis and concerns also from the trustees themselves over how the Games would turn out."

The official added that the "nitty-gritty of the operations and preparations" for the SEA Games will now be handled by Cojuangco and Ramirez.

Ramirez and Cojuangco have actually expressed confidence of a successful staging of the Games last week with preparations still to go into full throttle with barely four months before the event is held.

Another source, however, said the President’s move was just a first step in eventually removing Pagdanganan, who also heads the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), from Philsoc.

Tourism Secretary Ace Durano’s name came out as a possible replacement for the beleaguered Philsoc chief.

The official said the President was very concerned with the preparations and wanted the Games to turn out well. She instructed Cojuangco and Ramirez to seek the help of the private sector to ensure the successful staging of the Games on a P1 billion budget.

"The President said the government can only allocate so much for the Games so we must also try to increase private sector participation," the source said.

The official said Mrs. Arroyo wanted the Games to showcase the best of the Philippines and be an instrument of unity.

Mrs. Arroyo also expressed concern over the problems being encountered by the basketball sector, the official said.

Despite the President’s move to virtually reduce Pagdanganan to a figurehead, the latter is expected to take the decision easily. Last July 4, Mrs. Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 442 expanding Pagdanganan’s powers at PITC by transferring to him the responsibility of assuring quality and affordable medicines from the Department of Health.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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