Senator Pia Cayetano on Wednesday said she is convinced that the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) has lost all moral authority to lead the institution for excluding Ernest John “EJ” Obiena—a reigning pole vaulter—from its master list of athletes for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Cayetano said she will wait for the national sports leaders to condemn the National Sports Association's (NSA) actions and disclose their plans for Obiena.
“In recent months, we have all witnessed the actions PATAFA has taken to destroy a world-class athlete, as well as the image of the Philippines before the sporting world,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“Their exclusion of EJ Obiena - Asia's record holder and the world's current top 5-ranked pole vaulter - from the country's roster for the Southeast Asian Games, is not only anti-athlete, but also anti-Filipino,” she added.
Cayetano pointed out that the questions they raised surrounding the payment of Obiena’s coach, Ukrainian Vitaly Petrov, have all been answered “and yet their desire to wreak havoc on Philippine sports and this young man’s future continues.”
“With this condemnable act, PATAFA's leadership has lost all moral authority to lead our track and field sports program. They deserve to be purged from our NSAs list to allow Philippine track and field a fresh start, and for our athletes to genuinely develop into world-class caliber,” said Cayetano, who is an athlete herself.
Cayetano said she expects to hear developments on how the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), headed by Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino intends to ensure Obiena won’t be absent in the coming SEA Games and other major competitions.
“While the POC chair Tolentino has called out PATAFA on this, we await our national sports leaders to condemn PATAFA’s actions and to allow Obiena to play in the SEA Games and other major international athletics competitions,” she said.
“We must all work together to stop the madness of PATAFA, before it's too late,” Cayetano reiterated.