The Senate Committee on Sports has been asked to cite the board members of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) in contempt for “disobeying” the Senate Committee on Sport’s order to amicably settle its differences with Philippine Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) as the mediator.
It was Senator Pia Cayetano, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance and a member of the Senate Committee on Sports, who filed the motion, which was signed by three other senators namely, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Sen. Francis Tolentino and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.
Subject of the motion are PATAFA’s Board of Directors namely Philip Ella Juico, Rommel Sytin, Agapito Capistrano, Melinda Diaz-Salcdo, Noel Silva, Elmer Ngo, Benjamin Espiritu, Felix Tiukinhoy, Jr., Josemarie Diaz, Rafaelito Villavicencio, Joseph Anton Bengzon, Jaime Villegas, Datu Yusoph Mama, Guillermo Torres, Jr., Roberto Uy, and Go Teng Kok.
“Obviously, this honorable committee gave that order so that the parties can amicably settle their dispute. The honorable committee had intended to de-escalate the conflict so as not to prejudice the parties and Philippine sports. By filing the arbitration case, PATAFA escalated the conflict by giving Mr. Obiena another problem that will distract him from his training and consume his time, efforts and resources,” the senators said.
“PATAFA even refused to endorse him, as our country’s sole representative in pole vault in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games, and other international athletics competitions. This works not only against Mr. Obiena but also against Philippine sports,” they added.
In a statement, Cayetano recalled that when the Senate Committee on Sports chaired by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go intervened in the rift between Obiena and Juico, the pole vaulter had presented documetns proving that he had fully transmitted payments for the coaching fees of Ukrainian Coach Vitaly Petrov who confirmed of receiving the same.
She said Obiena also showed an email from the PSC auditing team confirming that he has completed and submitted all the required liquidation reports. Obiena did admit to delays in sending the payments, which he attributed to the difficulties he encountered in handling the funds, such as the conversion of Philippine pesos to Euros, as well as the late transfer of his training funds.
But despite the clear presentation made by Obiena, Cayetano lamented PATAFA still refused to acknowledge that he had fully paid his coach, and even raised doubts on the authenticity of his liquidation reports.
Obiena had even asked for assistance in handing the funds, but this request, Cayetano noted was not only denied, but was also used by PATAFA to raise issues and hurl accusations against him.
This promoted the Senate sports panel to order PATAFA and Obiena to go into mediation with the assistance of the PSC, with the end view of settling the matter so Obiena can focus on his training and upcoming competitions.
However, Cayetano noted that a mere four days after both parties agreed to mediation, PATAFA filed a case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
“This is an act of bad faith, as PATAFA practically and effectively closed any possibility of amicable settlement with Obiena,” Cayetano stressed.
“PATAFA has clearly escalated the conflict by giving Obiena another problem that will distract him from his training and consume his time, efforts and resources. This is not the way you treat a national athlete, and a Olympian at that,” the senator reiterated.
That is why, she said, she filed a motion to cite all of PATAFA’s Board Members in contempt.
“They could have also been the ones who authorized their President, Mr. Philip Ella Juico, to persecute Obiena in every possible way and to disobey the orders of the Senate Committee on Sports,” she said.
“But as due process will be observed, PATAFA’s Board Members will be given the opportunity to explain their actions,” she added.
“Meanwhile, PATAFA continues to rear its ugly head. Its continuous denial of Obiena's requests to represent the country in international athletics competitions has undermined the development of Philippine sports. With this condemnable act, PATAFA has lost all moral authority to lead the track and field sports program of the country,” the lawmaker emphasized.