National track and field athletes past and present, together with national coaches, signed separate manifestos supporting Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico in the sports governing body’s row with pole-vaulter Ernest John Obiena.
In open letters written in Filipino issued Monday, January 3, 26 athletes on the national pool and 11 coaches rallied behind Juico and the PATAFA board that has been hounded by controversy involving Obiena over the salaries of his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.
“Maraming nangyari, maraming sinabi. Pinili naming manahimik. Ngunit sa aming pananahimik tila mas sumikat ang kasinungalingan kaysa katotohanan. Kaya ngayon, magsalita na kaming atleta ng bayan,” the athletes said in their manifesto.
(A lot has happened, a lot has been said. We chose to keep silent but in doing so it seems that lies have overshadowed the truth. So now we, the nation’s athletes, must speak.)
“Naging kumplikado at naging political ang issue. (The issue has become complicated and political).
“Ang totoo ay lahat kaming mga atleta ay binibigyan ng financial support mula sa buwis ng taumbayan. Kapalit nito ay ang responsibilidad na ginamit naming ito ng tama sa pamamagitan ng liquidation. Ang maayos at mabilis na pag-liquidate ay isang simpleng paraan para maipakita namin ang pasasaslamat sa taumbayan.
(The truth is that all of us athletes are being given financial support from taxpayers’ money. With that comes the responsibility that we used the money properly through liquidation. A proper and fast liquidation is a simple way of expressing our gratitude to them.)
“Hindi kailanman naging dahilan at ginawang dahilan ang liquidation upang mabawasan ang aming galing bilang mga atleta. Ang dapat lang namin gawin ay mag-liquidate ng mabuti.
(We never made the process of liquidating expenses an excuse that stopped us from excelling. We only need to do that properly.)
“Sinusuportahan namin ang transparency ng PATAFA sa pamumuno ni Chairman Rufus Rodriguez, President Popoy Juico at ng buong Board of Trustees. Sinusuportahan namin ang imbestigasyon kung paano ginamit ang pera dahil responsibilidad nating alagaan ang buwis ng bawat Pilipino.”
(We support the transparency of PATAFA led by chairman Rufus Rodriguez, president Popoy Juico and the entire board of trustees. We support the investigation on how the money was used because it is the athlete’s responsibility to safeguard taxpayer money.)
During the PATAFA online press conference held on Tuesday, middle distance runner Mico del Prado confirmed the manifesto signed by the national athletes, adding that it was common practice for them to liquidate the funds that they were given by the local track body.
“Yes, we liquidate, that's true. We are buying our own spike shoes and PATAFA gives us money and we liquidate that. This will not hinder us from training. We just need proper time and management,” said Del Prado, a bronze medalist at the 2019 30th Southeast Asian Games.
“Hindi siya (liquidate) totally hadlang sa pagiging atleta namin. (Liquidating is not a hindrance to our being an athlete),” added the son of legendary middle distance runner and 2-time men’s 400-meter Asian champion Isidro Del Prado.
Besides the younger del Prado, signing the letter of support were Edgardo Alejan Jr., Clinton Baustista, Bejoy Bernalyn, Melvin Calano, Daniela Daynata, Sarah Dequinan Harry Diones, Melissa Escoton, Edwin Giron, Junel Gobotia, Josefa Ligmayo, Anfernee Lopena, Jessel Lumapas, Ronnie Malipay, John Albert Mantua, Mariano Masano, Eloisa Medina, Francis Medina Jelly Paragile, Frederick Ramirez, Richard Salano, Joyme Sequita, Aries Toledo, Janry Ubas and Jerald Zabala.
The elder Del Prado, Hector Begeo and Elma Muros-Posadas, who were all outstanding national athletes in their prime, also rallied behind the PATAFA leadership in a separate letter.
“We are writing from our conscience and from our desire to confirm the truth amidst all the misjudgments hurled against our former association, PATAFA and its leaders. We are here in support of our PATAFA leaders to defend this ‘eye opener of events’ that have been unfolding these past months, for the betterment of sports, particularly athletics in our country,” the trio said.
“We have brought glory to our country in our prime days, in the peak of our careers, and carried the Philippine colors in the international arena of sports, particularly in track & field.
“It is with sadness that super stardom as an athlete has been made ‘license’ for disrespect for authority, for dishonest dealing with money matters when liquidation has been part of our athletes’ life.
“On our part, stardom is no excuse, and has never been an excuse, to downplay the truth for all to know.
“We believe that, in time, good and truth shall triumph, and we pray that this should happen for Philippine sports to rise above this mess. We have been part of this prestigious association (PATAFA) and we cannot allow it to be maligned and destroyed by politics, reckless comments, and flashy social media coverage. We stand by the truth.”
A 3-time Olympian, Begeo once reigned as the country’s premier steeplechase athlete and was a 7-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist.
His 33-year-old national record of 8 minutes, 35.09 seconds in the 3,000-meter steeplechase set in the 1988 Seoul Olympics has been untouched up to now.
Also a product of Project: Gintong Alay like Begeo, Del Prado is a 3-time SEA Games gold medalist in the men’s 400-meter run and continues to hold the national mark in the event of 45.57 seconds booked in the 1984 ASEAN Cup held in Manila.
Posadas, married to national coach Jojo Posadas, was once the undisputed long jump queen in the Southeast Asian Games where she won a total 12 gold medals and is likewise enshrined in the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame.
Her husband-coach, Jojo, was among the national coaches who signed the manifesto of support to the PATAFA leadership.
“Like our athletes, we should also abide by PATAFA rules, especially when it concerns liquidation. Because like parents, the association looks after and takes care of us. Our responsibility is to help our athletes not only during training but also help them liquidate since we are dealing with public funds,” Posadas said in the online press conference.
Other coaches who signed the manifesto were Eduardo Buenavista, Jeoffrey Chua, Dario de Rosas, Joebert Delicano, John Philip Duenas, Arniel Ferrera, Danilo Fresnido, Sean Guevarra, John Lozada and Julius Nierras.