4 senators file motion citing PATAFA board members in contempt

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2022 02:22 AM | Updated as of Mar 17 2022 04:22 AM

MANILA — Four senators on Wednesday filed a motion to cite the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association’s (PATAFA) Board Members in contempt.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, one of the senators who filed the motion, said the board members violated the Senate Committee on Sports' order for PATAFA to settle its differences with Olympian and Asia's top pole vaulter EJ Obiena, with the Philippine Sports Commission as the mediator. 

"In compliance with the requirements of Section 18 of the Senate Rules, several colleagues have co-signed my motion. They include Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Francis Tolentino, and Senator Panfilo Lacson," Cayetano said in a statement.

Obiena earlier lamented he not being able to compete at the World Indoor Championships, despite gaining qualification amid a funding squabble with the PATAFA.

The federation denied his request for endorsement to the World Indoors in Belgrade, as well as the Vietnam SEA Games, World Championships in Oregon in July, and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September.

Cayetano recalled that during a Senate hearing last February, Obiena showed documents proving that he paid the fees of his coach, Vitaly Petrov, who confirmed the transaction.

"Obiena did admit to delays in sending the payments, which he attributed to the difficulties he encountered in handling the funds, such as the conversion of Philippine pesos to Euros, as well as the late transfer of his training funds," she said.

Despite Obiena's proof and Petrov's confirmation, Cayetano said the PATAFA still refused to acknowledge the pole vaulter had fully paid his coach, and the federation even raised doubts on the authenticity of his liquidation reports. 

"Obiena had even asked for assistance in handling the funds. However, this request was not only denied, but was also used by PATAFA to raise issues and hurl accusations against him," the senator said.

Despite the Senate panel's order to PATAFA to settle its differences with Obiena with PSC as mediator, the federation filed a case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, which Cayetano described as an "act of bad faith as PATAFA practically and effectively closed any possibility of amicable settlement with Obiena."

"PATAFA has clearly escalated the conflict by giving Obiena another problem that will distract him from his training and consume his time, efforts, and resources. This is not the way you treat a national athlete, and an Olympian at that," Cayetano said.

The senator said PATAFA's board members could have authorized the federation's president, Philip Juico, "to persecute Obiena in every possible way and to disobey the orders of the Senate Committee on Sports."

"But as due process will be observed, PATAFA’s Board Members will be given the opportunity to explain their actions," she added.

PATAFA's denial of Obiena's requests to represent the Philippines in international competitions such as the World Indoor Championships "has undermined the development of Philippine sports", Cayetano said.

"With this condemnable act, PATAFA has lost all moral authority to lead the track and field sports program of the country."

In his recent outing, Obiena set a new Philippine indoor record by clearing 5.91 meters for a second-place finish at the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen, France.

He also holds the Asian record of 5.93 meters, which is way above the SEA Games standard of 5.45 meters he himself set during the 2019 edition of the Games.

"With my recent results, I have qualified for the World Indoor Championships. I am currently ranked 5th and holding the 4th highest jump of the season," he said in a social media post.


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