As he steps down, Juico lauded for PATAFA leadership

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Jun 19 2022 08:17 AM

Complete with a renewal of vows and dinner with close family members later, athletics chief Philip Ella Juico and Margie Juico, former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chairperson during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, celebrated their golden wedding jubilee last Friday.

A day later, Juico, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president, issued a statement that he was stepping down as its head following a meeting of the association’s board at the Diamond Residences in Makati.

Taking over Juico’s post, the statement added, was former PATAFA executive vice president and secretary general Agapito “Terry” Capistrano for the remainder of the former’s term until November 2024, or after the Paris Olympic Games.

A former chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission and Secretary of Agrarian Reform, Juico, who took over the PATAFA helm in 2014 from Go Teng Kok, was unanimously re-elected as the association’s president in November last year. 

Juico, however, will remain as a board member and PATAFA “chairman emeritus,” the statement added. 

Whether the two events — Juico’s wedding anniversary and his subsequent resignation as athletics head — were related remains to be seen.

What is true, however, is that the cool and articulate sportsman’s stint as head of the PATAFA since late November until early May was turbulent and trying due to the association’s row with Italy-based estranged pole vaulter Ernest Obiena.

This involved the alleged mishandling of funds meant for the athlete’s build-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games last year that prompted an administrative inquiry by the local track body, which Obiena vehemently denied in social media.

With the encouragement of Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, Obiena took his case to the POC Ethics Committee for alleged harassment, leading to the POC general assembly declaring Juico “persona non grata” on January 26.

The track chief insisted that the issue with Obiena was an internal matter that had nothing to do with the POC, an assertion supported by World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, who wrote Juico on February 10 upholding Patafa’s authority over issues concerning track and field in the country.

Feeling aggrieved, Juico appealed his case with the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport for resolution on March 3, with the POC Executive Board by reacting filing another unanimous resolution to suspend PATAFA for 90 days two weeks later.

Even the Senate dipped its feet into the controversy, with Sen. Pia Cayetano, an avowed supporter of Obiena, filing a motion to cite PATAFA in contempt on March 16 over the issue. 

In the meantime, Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez efforts to mediate between the Obiena and PATAFA finally bore fruit when the athlete agreed to the sit down with PATAFA.

This was after he had failed to secure PATAFA accreditation to the world indoor championships set March 18 to 20 in Belgrade, Serbia and his participation in the 30th Vietnam SEA Games in May and the world championships in Eugene, Oregon in July looked bleak without the local track body’s approval.

Only after the PSC announced on March 30 that a deal had been reached with the beleaguered athlete and the local track body so that Obiena was able to secure the accreditation needed for the Vietnam SEA Games.

As a result of the successful mediation, the POC withdrew its persona non grata resolution against Juico on April 4 by its Executive Board and no longer pushed through with suspending the local track body.

Despite the intense pressure of the POC and lawmakers, the PATAFA, led by Juico, who underwent a delicate operation last year, held its ground, something which the former athletics head referred to in the statement issued Saturday. 

“The PATAFA shall always remain steadfast to its core values of integrity, honesty, competence and sincerity, the same values required of all PATAFA athletes, coaches and other stakeholders,” Juico stressed. 

“I am not leaving PATAFA or the sports community, as it is here where my heart lies but for now, I look forward to more family time and an opportunity to concentrate on personal and business interests and ventures and community advocacies.”

Amid the distractions caused by the controversy, Juico did not miss looking after the welfare of the national track and field athletes, who, despite the short training period, still mustered to deliver 5 gold, 7 silver and 14 bronze medals in the Vietnam SEA Games. 

Contrast this with cycling, headed by Tolentino, that went home virtually empty-handed with only three bronze medals, all from the mountain bike events.

Former POC first vice president and veteran sports hand Joey Romasanta was saddened by the development, saying: “Popoy (Juico’s nickname) exuded a professional persona and was truly an organization man.

“He is academician and his organizational skills were all put to good use in PATAFA, which ran pretty well under his watch. His contributions are all there to see.”

“Chairman Juico’s entry and contributions to local track and field has been outstanding, but let us not forget that he leaves the PATAFA top post with his dignity intact and head held high,” Romasanta added. “In Capistrano, he is leaving PATAFA in competent hands.”