MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) plans to invoke a provision in the Olympic charter to ensure that pole vaulter EJ Obiena can still represent the country in international competitions.
This, according to POC President Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino, as the national Olympic committee (NOC) has thrown its weight behind Obiena amidst the athlete's feud with his own national sports association (NSA).
The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) intends to drop Obiena from the national team pool and file a case of estafa against him after finding that the pole vaulter allegedly misappropriated funds. The PATAFA initially said that Obiena will be dropped from the national team "effective immediately," as per the recommendation of its investigative committee.
However, they agreed to defer Obiena's expulsion for two weeks, and both parties are expected to submit to mediation organized by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
Tolentino assures that should the mediation fall apart and the PATAFA follows through with its intent to drop Obiena, they will see to it that the pole vaulter will continue competing for the Philippines.
"The POC will invoke the provision on the IOC charter," Tolentino told former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala on "Power and Play."
Rule 27 of the Olympic charter specified that NOCs "have the exclusive authority for the representation of their respective countries at the Olympic Games and at the regional, continental or world multi-sports competitions patronized by the IOC."
NOCs also have the right to "send competitors, team officials, and other team personnel to the Olympic Games in compliance with the Olympic Charter."
"Remember, kami ang nagpapadala ng list of delegates. Yes, it is being proposed by NSAs, pero kami 'yung last say, kami 'yung nagpapadala," Tolentino stressed.
Obiena is the defending Southeast Asian Games champion and currently holds the Asian record in pole vault, having registered a mark of 5.93 meters during the International Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria last September 2021.
He is expected to compete in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam this May and is the gold medal favorite for his event in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China in September.
For Tolentino, it is crucial that they keep supporting the 26-year-old Obiena, noting the difficulty in developing an athlete of his caliber.
"Alam mo, napakahirap pong magawa ng ganitong world-class athlete, 'no. Baka another 15 to 20 years bago ka magawa ulit ng isang Obiena, so sayang naman 'yung bata," he said.