PATAFA–Obiena rift, from bad to worse
By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
WHEN the ethics committee of Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), headed by Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, declared Philippines Athletics Track And Field Association (PATAFA) president Philip Ella Juico as ‘persona non grata’ for accusing his pole vault athlete EJ Obiena of misappropriating government funds intended for his Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov, Juico was quick to retaliate and recommended to PATAFA’s administrative committee the filing of a legal complaint (estafa) against Obiena and his expulsion from the national team.
Wow, that’s a harsh and drastic punishment against an elite athlete who holds the current pole vault Asian record of 5.93 meters. It was clearly a “tit-for-tat” move by Juico. Yes, that’s very common reaction among Filipinos although it is against God’s way. (Matthew 5: 38-40)
The hullabaloo stemmed from PATAFA’s charge of inconsistencies in Obiena’s liquidation of funds to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) intended for Petrov’s stipend for the past three years totaling over P4.8 million, as claimed by Petrov to Juico in a signed statement. But, the trouble started when Petrov retracted his signed statement to PATAFA, and finally admitted that the 26-year-old Obiena had, indeed, already settled the account two months ago. Stunned and embarrassed, Juico was irked and ousted Petrov immediately as the national team coach. Still from bad to worse, Obiena’s mother Jeanette, the former auditor of Patafa was also implicated in the problem for misappropriating (also) more than P624,000. She claimed that the fund from the PSC was a repayment of the coaching fee to Petrov for three months in 2019. Well, if these allegations are all factual, remember, didn’t God say, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”? (1Timothy 6: 10).
POC intervened to rescue Obiena, knowing that the world’s sixth ranked pole vaulter is a sure gold medal winner in the coming May 12-23 Hanoi SEA Games in Vietnam and most likely to win a medal (probably gold) in this year’s Hangzhou Asian Games in China on September 10-25. POC said it will adopt Obiena and can still represent Philippines in any international competitions by officially endorsing him to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Yes, the rule says PATAFA , the national sports association (NSA) that Obiena belongs to, has the right to expel the pole vaulter but POC has the final say whether to approve any of our national athletes strongly recommended by any of our NSA like PATAFA, to represent our country overseas since the PSC is the financer of all our national teams in training and competitions.
I believe this brouhaha would not have been happened if PATAFA or PSC had handled the payment oof stipends of coach Petrov directly and not through via Obiena. Is it because Petrov is a foreigner and retaining him is against our law? I’m not aware about the rule.
Latest report from POC says that despite the impasse, the Tondo-born 2020 Olympian Obiena continues to tune-up his skills against his co-world class pole vaulters abroad. In Germany on January 28, the Asian Indoor Championships in Kazakhstan on February 11-13, World Indoor Championships in Serbia on March 18-24, the prestigious World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon on July 15-24, aside from the Hanoi Sea Games and the Hangzhou Asian Games this year , with or without the endorsement and assistance of PATAFA.
I strongly believe that the row will be resolved amicably this month. If not, then PRRD should intercede.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: The days on our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. PSALMS 90: 10
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