POC ethics committee set to begin probe on Obiena’s rift with Patafa
Step one of EJ Obiena’s fightback will begin next week, with the Philippine Olympic Committee’s (POC) ethics committee scheduled to open its probe on a complaint filed by the star pole vaulter against his federation, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa)
The investigation is expected to run alongside the Philippine Sports Commission’s (PSC) plan to launch mediation proceedings between the two parties, who currently find a gulf wedged between them over accusations of misreported financial documents.
And while the PSC has said it is not looking to point any fingers, the POC vowed to make sure someone shoulders the burden of causing the controversy to erupt.
“The POC assures that it will resolve the issues with expediency and hold [those responsible] … accountable,” POC president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said on Friday.
Tolentino said Obiena’s complaint was filed before the Athletes Commission and Safe Sports Technical Working Group.
The PSC on Thursday said it has transmitted mediation submission papers to Obiena and Patafa in an attempt to cool the rift between the two. In doing so, however, the government agency, which disburses government funding to national athletes like Obiena, is likely to uncover the root of the issue.
The same can be said of the POC probe, which is acting on Obiena’s complaint against Patafa and its president, Philip Juico, over alleged harassment, attempting to collude with coaches to fabricate statements, coercing to solicit doctor-patient privileged communication, psychological abuse, bullying and neglect of duty.
Obiena has strongly denied any wrongdoing with regards to payment of the salary of his coach, Ukrainian legend Vitaly Petrov. The pole vault star maker has already issued a statement saying he had already been paid in full.
The Patafa is expected to argue that the payments were made after Obiena had already submitted documents indicating he had already paid Petrov, opening the athletics standout to falsification charges—and justifying the two memos it sent Obiena ordering him to return 85,000 euros (about P4.8 million) of financial aid.
A key document that could end the controversy is a copy of those liquidation reports—if they exist at all.
The POC’s Ethics Committee is chaired by rowing’s Patrick Gregorio with sailing’s Ernesto Echauz and bridge’s Gerry Alquiros as members.
The POC has joined the PSC in slapping a gag order on parties involved so as not to further inflame the situation.
Sources inside the PSC, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they can only provide background, have told the Inquirer that the agency has not seen any of the liquidation reports that the Patafa has described in its memo, reports that purportedly show Obiena declared payment of Petrov’s salary that hadn’t paid out yet.
But, the sources said, that doesn’t mean the financial reports don’t exist, only that it hasn’t reached the PSC just yet. The sources added that it takes a lot of time before national sports associations (NSAs) transmit liquidation reports to the PSC, adding that several NSAs have yet to submit their liquidation reports on financial assistance extended by the government.
Obiena and Petrov, went online on Sunday to counter the Patafa’s claim that the multimedalist athlete hasn’t paid the legendary pole vaulting coach his salaries.
The Patafa shot back, clarifying that the memos it issued centered on Obiena not making the payments on the dates stated in his liquidation reports.
Earlier this week, the Senate budget committee withheld its approval of the Supreme Court’s budget pending the agency’s resolution of the problem.
Weightlifting chief Monico Puentevella, a former PSC commissioner and lawmaker, blasted the Senate decision, saying that in “trying to find a rat,” the senators are burning “the whole house down.”