PATAFA insists POC declaration of Juico as persona non grata is 'null and void'

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 04 2022 05:53 PM

POC president Rep. Abraham
POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino (left) and PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico.

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) does not recognize the decision of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to declare its president, Philip Ella Juico, as "persona non grata."

This was made clear on Tuesday by Juico and PATAFA chairman Cong. Rufus Rodriguez, who said in a press conference that their organization had approved a resolution "rejecting the POC resolution as null and void."

"The POC Ethics Committee, they do not have jurisdiction over this matter. That is our latest communication, and that will be our continuing communication to them," said Juico.

On December 28, the POC announced that it had approved the recommendation of its Ethics Committee to declare Juico as "persona non grata," in the wake of the PATAFA president's ongoing rift with Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena.

"We do not recognize him anymore as president of PATAFA until the new election of its president," POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino said of Juico.

The sanction stemmed from the Ethics Committee’s investigation that concluded that Juico "harassed" Obiena by making "malicious public accusations."

Juico later vowed to challenge the POC's decision, and insisted that the agency had no jurisdiction over the matter involving Obiena.

Rodriguez, the representative of the second district of Cagayan de Oro City, said the POC's own constitution precludes it from getting involved in the issue. He cited Article 3, Section M of the POC constitution, which states: "(The POC) shall act as the final arbitrator of all intra-NSA conflicts and disputes, as well as cases arising from or in connection with the Olympic Games, or any form of doping offense, in case the same cannot be settled or resolved with the NSA's processes or procedures."

The congressman stressed that the national sports association -- in this case the PATAFA -- has the primary jurisdiction when it comes to intra-NSA conflicts and disputes.

"And certainly, the dispute of the non-payment of an athlete, in the roles of the PATAFA and EJ Obiena, and the PATAFA itself, is an intra-NSA conflict," he said.

Given this, Rodriguez said the POC Board "approved the resolution rejecting the POC resolution as null and void ab initio."

Moreover, he saw no reason for the POC to declare Juico as "persona non grata" in the first place.

"We all know that persona non grata comes out if there is an insult on that body, like the POC, Congress, the city council, for example," he said. "If a person insults that body or imputes crimes on that body or makes allegations against that body, that is the time there can be declare persona non grata."

"In this case, it is an intra-NSA dispute. And, Philip Juico came to them and said, look at your constitution, you have no jurisdiction. So how can there be persona non grata there? Is there an insult by our president, Philip Juico, to the POC? None," Rodriguez declared.

Juico did appear in front of the POC Ethics Committee, but only to explain that they had no jurisdiction over the Obiena issue.

"There is no insult," said Rodriguez. "Where is the basis of persona non grata? None, zero, nil. That is why, we in the board are rejecting the POC as null and void ab initio and beyond their powers and jurisdiction."

The POC has already criticized Juico for deciding to "hide on jurisdictional issue" and insisted that Obiena's complaint against PATAFA cannot be considered an intra-NSA dispute.

"It's all about the conduct of Mr. Juico as president of the PATAFA on the way he treated an athlete," said Tolentino.

Tolentino, also the representative of the 8th District of Cavite, defeated Juico for the POC presidency in July 2019.