POC chief Tolentino vows to support embattled athlete EJ Obiena

Published January 4, 2022, 4:03 PM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

Ej Obiena, left, and POC president Bambol Tolentino

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) will make sure that Olympian pole vaulter EJ Obiena can compete in all major competitions including the 31st Southeast Asian Games and the 19th Asian Games this year despite Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) administrative committee’s recommendation to drop him out of the national team.

POC president Bambol Tolentino said Tuesday the organizer or host of an event owns a prerogative to allow embattled athletes to compete in the absence of an endorsement from a national federation.

He cited the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter allowing National Olympic Committee (NOCs) to endorse athletes to compete in major international competitions like the Olympics.

“We will fight for EJ. We in the POC will help him in his future campaigns,” Tolentino said.

The recommendation of Patafa’s administrative committee to drop out Obiena from the national team stemmed from the 26-year-old national and Asian record holder’s alleged misuse of government funds that was based from the said committee’s findings.

Tolentino is optimistic the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will exercise its mandate regarding the situation.

“Republic Act 6487 creating the PSC mandates it in Section 7, sub-paragraph, ‘to exercise such other acts as are incident to or are appropriate and necessary with the creation of the Commission,” Tolentino said.

“Will the PSC turn its back on this mandate? I don’t think so. This is precisely why the PSC is created: to act as the final caretaker of athletes when an oppressive NSA is apparently shutting its doors to world-class athletes.”

While Patafa only exercised its domain to include and exclude athletes under Section 13 of the said Republic Act, the PSC Board said it is requiring Patafa to submit an explanation regarding its current decision.

“Any exclusion (of athletes) shall be required an explanation from the concerned NSA considering the investment of the government in developing someone into an elite athlete,” the PSC Board statement read.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Valenzuela City 2nd District Rep. Eric Martinez appealed to the public not to judge and malign Obiena with the current rift with Patafa and its president Philip Juico.

“We should not just to conclusions right away without a hint of due process involved in resolving this issue,” Martinez said.