More Pinoy track and field athletes, coaches show PATAFA support

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Mar 22 2022 08:38 AM

UNABLE to overlook any longer the latest attacks on the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association, a number of national athletes and coaches on Monday signed open letters to renew their support for the sports body’s leadership led by president Philip Ella Juico. 

Coming on a day that mediation talks initiated by the Philippine Sports Commission between PATAFA and Italy-based pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena resumed, 27 athletes and 11 coaches declared their approval of the national sports association’s leadership, some of them citing why they did so. 

“Kaming mga higit na 20 atleta ng Pilipinas at mga atleta sa pamunuan ng PATAFA ay nagbibigay ng aming buong pusong suporta sa PATAFA sa pamumuno ni Chairman Rufus Rodriguez, President Popoy Juico at ng buong board of trustees sa kritikal na panahong ito (We more than 20 athletes of the Philippines and under PATAFA supervision give our wholehearted support to PATAFA under the leadership of Chairman Rufus Rodriguez, President Popoy Juico and the entire board of trustees during these critical times),” the athletes said.

“Sana di din makalimutan na kami din ay atleta ng bayan at nakakararami at kami ay direktong apektado ng mga desisyong ito. Subalit sa lahat ng pagsubok na hinaharap ng aming federasyon na PATAFA, kami ay nanatiling focused sa aming training upang makapapagbigay ng pinakamagandang performance sa nalalapit na kumpetisyon at buo ang pag-iisip.

(Hopefully, we will not also be forgotten as athletes of our country and more in number, and we are directly affected by these decisions. However, amid all the trials facing our federation, we remain focused with our whole minds on our training to give our best in the forthcoming competition, the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games.)

“Kami ay determinado upang makapagbigay ng karangalan sa ating bansa sa kabila ng hindi magagandang pangyayari sa mga nagdaang araw (We are determined to give honor to our country despite the bad development over the past few days.),” they added.

The athletes signing the open letter were Edgardo Alejan Jr., Clinton Bautista, Bejoy Bernalyn, Melvin Calano, Daniela Daynata, Michael del Prado, Sarah Dequinan, Harry Diones, Melissa Escoton, Edwin Giron, Junel Gobotia, Josefa Ligmayo, Anfernee Lopena, Christine Hallasgo, Jessel Lumapas, Ronnie Malipay, John Albert Mantua, Mariano Masano, Eloisa Medina, Francis Medina, Jelly Paragile, Frederick Ramirez, Richard Salano, Jayme Sequita, Aries Toledo, Janry Ubas, Jerald Zabala.

Hurdler Bautista, javelin thrower Calano, decathlete Toledo, heptathlete Dequinan, marathoner Hallasgo and sprinters Lopena and Medina were all gold medalists at the 2019 30th Southeast Asian Games athletic competitions held at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas town, Tarlac. 

Athletics contributed heavily to the country’s successful overall SEA Games campaign three years ago, finishing third overall out of eight countries that competed in the discipline with 11 gold, 8 silver and 8 bronze medals. 

“Maganda ang pamamalakad ng PATAFA sa amin at dahil sa kanila ay hindi namin mararating itong kinalalagyan namin (PATAFA management is doing fine and we would not reach our present level without it,” Toledo, an Army enlisted man, stressed. “Nagpapasalamat kami kay sir Juico na kahit pandemic kami gumawa siya ng paraan para kami ay makahensayo. (We are grateful to sir Juico that even during the pandemic he found a way so we could train.)”

Dequinan added: “Keep fighting po. Lalabas din ang katotohohan. Patuloy kami mag-pipray. God bless po (Keep on fighting. The truth will emerge. We will continue to pray.”

Calano echoed: “Tuloy po ang laban para sa ikabubuti ng association (Let’s continue the fight for the good of the association.)”

Medina, a bronze medalist in the men’s 4x100-meter in the 2019 Games, added: “We believe and trust our association to lead us on our journey of being a great athlete with character and dignity. PATAFA keeps on providing us with all the necessary needs in training and competitions to reach our goals. We support Patafa’s management and it’s (sic) program,” 

Hallasgo, a last-minute inclusion on the national team that competed in the 2019 SEA Games, was also emphatic in her support of the association.

“I support (PATAFA), dahil sa kabila ng suliranin ngayon ng PATAFA lalo na po kay sir Juico, eh di po niya kami pinapabayaan. Gumagawa po siya ng paraan para masuportahan kaming mga atleta. (I support PATAFA, despite the problems PATAFA is facing, especially sir Juico, he has not abandoned us. He has made ways to support us athletes.),” she said. 

National training director Renato Unso, a former national standout himself, pointed out: “Some of our athletes expressed their sentiments to show that they are being cared for by our association. We don’t just have one athlete in our national pool but 48.”

“Nalulungkot kaming mga coaches sa naging desisyon ng POC laban sa PATAFA. Ang PATAFA ay nagbibigay ng aming mother federation (World Athletics) at alinsunod sa aming unang pahayag, ay patuloy kaming sumusuporta sa PATAFA, kay Mr. Juico, Cong. Rodriguez, sa aming suporta sa mga bumubuo ng aming federation (We coaches are saddened at the decision of the POC against Patafa. Patafa is recognized by our mother federation (World Athletics) and what we like we said before, we continue to support Patafa, to Mr Juico, Cong. Rufus Rodriguez and to those who make up our federation,” the coaches said.

“Apektado man kami sa mga pangyayari, hindi kami magpapaantala sa paghahanda at pagtulong ng aming atleta para sa kompetision ayon sa tamang values at sistema ng PATAFA na aming sinusunod at nirerespeto (Although we are affected by what is happening, we will not be dissuaded in preparing and helping our athletes for their competition based on the right values and system that we follow and respect),” they added. 

Signing the letter were coaches Eduardo Buenavista, Jeoffrey Chua, Dario de Rosas, Joebert Delicano, John Philip Duenas, Arniel Ferrera, Daniel Fresnido, Sean Guevarra, John Lozada, Julius Nierras and George “Jojo” Posadas.

“What Obiena fails to remember is that he would not be training in Formia, Italy without the endorsement of PATAFA and Mr. Juico,” said Posadas, the husband of former Southeast Asian Games long jump queen Elma Muros-Posadas, in an interview. 

It was through the endorsement of Juico and the assistance of World Athletics Senior Vice President that Obiena was given a scholarship in 2015 at the World Athletics elite training camp in Formia, Italy headed by his former coach and Ukrainian compatriot Vitaly Petrov, who currently trains the Filipino athlete.

“He (Obiena) wants to make it appear that PATAFA did nothing for him, which is not true. He has also forgotten that he would not be a world-class athlete without the association’s support and endorsement,” Posadas pointed out.

The letters of support from the coaches and athletes came in the wake of the Philippine Olympic Executive Board decision last week to suspend the local track body after Obiena was unable to compete in the world indoor championships in Belgrade, Serbia pending the resolution of the mediation process with the government sports agency.

Based on Article 4, Section 8 of the POC constitution and by-laws, the POC board decision won’t be binding unless the two-thirds of the POC’s regular members ratify the move.

These declarations of support were also following the announcement by Sen. Pia Cayetano, backed by three other senators, that she would file a resolution to cite PATAFA in contempt for disobeying the Senate Sports Committee’s “order” to resolve its issues with Obiena amicably through the PSC mediation.

She cited the PATAFA decision to appeal the decision of the POC to declare Juico persona non grata with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although this mechanism for redress is found in Article 3, Section 1, letter m of the POC constitution and by-laws.

Juico likewise pointed out in several statements that PATAFA had agreed to the mediation process initiated by PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez as early as December when the controversy broke out while Obiena bided his time, even spurning it twice.

Finally recognizing PATAFA’s authority, the athlete only signed on to the mediation process on Feb. 28 after requesting the association four days earlier to be endorsed to four international competitions, including the world indoor meet.

Unso replied to the athlete’s request on March 1 that it would only be considered once a resolution to the mediation process is reached, which had its third dialog last afternoon after the first two meetings did not produce tangible results.

The talk was supposed to be held last March 17 but was reset because Obiena reportedly had some other things to do on that day.