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Al Panlilio never thought of running for POC post, but duty called

Over the past three decades, Al Panlilio has faced every challenge head-on and conquered it.

In the business world, Panlilio — who started his career with IBM Philippines — rose through the ranks to eventually become the senior vice president of Meralco. He later became the President of Smart Communications and Chief Revenue Officer of PLDT.

But it’s not just in the corporate world where Panlilio has made a mark.

In sports, he helped transform the Meralco Bolts from cellar-dwellers to contenders while also leading the country’s basketball federation, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

On Friday however, the amiable executive will run for a post that he never imagined he would be undertaking — first vice presidency in the Philippine Olympic Committee.

“I never thought about being part of the POC even when I was younger,” he admitted during 2OT.

Sports has definitely changed Panlilio’s worldview in a good way.

“I had a talk three weeks ago. We had a company but we delegate outside the company, and we had a digital convention that happened, and my speech revolved on sports being like a business. What you learn in sports you can adapt in the corporate world, so I always believe in the values that I’ve learned from sports and I’ve been able to apply that in the corporate world,” he shared.

“‘Yung teamwork, you have to continue to excel, improve yourself. There are roles you have to do; you have to collaborate, you have one game plan, one vision, one target. I mean lahat ‘yun ganoon din sa sports eh, so parang pareho lang ‘yung values and principles.”

In every election, however, things can get messy.

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Panlilio’s partymates — namely triathlon’s Tom Carrasco, who is running for POC chairman; cycling’s Bambol Tolentino (president); gymnastics’ Cynthia Carrion (treasurer); and surfing’s George Canlas and judo’s Dave Carter — received disqualification cases.

The election committee later junked the cases. Still, it left a bitter taste in Panlilio’s mouth.

“I just hope that the POC was less political, and really focus on/… Naaawa ako sa mga atleta eh. At the end of the day, it’s really the athletes who sacrificed a lot of themselves, and it’s really sad if we cannot support them in a big way.”

Having worked with former POC president Ricky Vargas during his short regime, Panlilio saw first hand what needs to be changed in the agency.

It’s the same vision Tolentino has, and it is what made Panlilio decide to join his ticket.

“When President Bambol asked me to join him, I just really wanted to support him, and also Mr. Ricky Vargas said kailangan ka rin ni President Bambol diyan to make him embark on his programs. Sort of thought about it. I said, ‘I don’t really like the politics behind it.’ Then. I think… You know, if we can put the right thing in place in the POC, we can do a lot and really no politics. Really just doing the right thing for the Filipino athlete,” said Panlilio, who is also the head of the MVP Sports Foundation.

If elected, Panlilio vows to be an agent of change.

He vows to change the perception that the athletes are the ones serving the POC, since it should be the POC serving the athletes.

“It’s really making sure that we are able to elevate, we become better step by step and we don’t… You know, we’re not stagnant; we don’t even go back to a lower level in any sport.

“Sana mag-elevate tayo, maski na unti-unti we see improvement. And the only way we can do that is if we can provide better facilities, better training, better competition similar to basketball. Players who have been involved in Gilas, when they come back to the PBA are much better players, and that’s the only way you become better. Benchmarking yourself against the best in the world. That’s the only way,” he vowed.

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