PSC calls for end to public sniping as athletes take sides in Obiena-Patafa rift
MANILA, Philippines — The cracks exposed by the rift between pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) have widened to include other national athletes, causing worry among national sports association (NSA) officials.
And the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has had enough, issuing a demand on Wednesday: Don’t escalate the maelstrom.
“We demand EJ to immediately finish his liquidation of accounts so that we can continue to support him,” the PSC, which had earlier offered to mediate between the warring parties, said in a statement on Wednesday, while calling on the Patafa to “reconsider their declaration of dropping EJ from their roll; provide him an appeal mechanism and not to execute their decision immediately.”
PSC chief Butch Ramirez reminded all parties that the current tension was nothing more than a “simple case of liquidation” that has now gotten out of hand, with national athletes taking sides in the controversy — a development that has left NSA officials anxious.
The statement came hours after Obiena posted on his Facebook page this response to the Patafa dropping him from the national pool, a decision that put his stints in international competitions in peril despite the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) coming to his rescue.
“I have said before that the only reason I will not jump for the Philippines is if Philip Juico won’t let me jump for the country,” said Obiena. “This afternoon, the POC made a statement that I will still carry the flag of the Philippines and represent the country.
“I do not jump for Mr. Philip Ella Juico or the PATAFA. I jump for my beloved nation.”
That jump might be grounded despite the POC’s cudgels offered by its president, Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino. This was according to several NSA officials who warned that a POC endorsement in international meets may not be enough.
The officials spoke on the condition they not be named in deference to the PSC’s call for a ceasefire to the public sniping.
“The POC endorsement may not take effect in IOC (International Olympic Committee)-governed games like the Olympics, Asian Games and the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games whose competitions are run by their respective international federations’ technical people,” one official said.
At least three other NSAs had officials backing the same contention, based on their long experience in dealing with international meets.
“There has been incidents in the past that athletes not endorsed by the NSAs weren’t allowed by the IF (international federation) even though they had the blessing from the POC,” an NSA official added.
Even more worrying, an NSA head said, was the fact that national athletes were drawn into opposite sides of the controversy.
Some 26 athletes and 11 coaches from the Patafa have allegedly signed a manifesto throwing their support to Juico, including Obiena’s fellow SEA Games gold winners Clinton Bautista, Aries Toledo, Melvin Calano and Sarah Dequinan. Obiena’s fellow Tokyo Olympian, boxer Eumir Marcial, has come out in support of the World No. 6 vaulter.
“Division within the ranks of national athletes is never ever going to be a good thing,” the official said. “There has to be an end to this.”
Patafa on Tuesday expelled Obiena from the national pool for alleged misappropriation of funds intended as payment for his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov in his training in Formia, Italy. The Patafa also plans to file charges against the athlete and his mother.
That, after the POC declared Patafa president Philip Ella Juico persona non grata over his perceived high-handedness in dealing with Obiena.
The PSC asked POC to “bridge the two parties as the mother organization of both and reconsider their decision of declaring Mr. Juico persona non grata on the premise of promoting peace in elite sports.”
“We demand for the Patafa, EJ and the POC and all parties who wish to stoke the fire of this mad issue to stop,” said Ramirez. “You have all publicly recognized the PSC and asked us to help resolve the issue, please listen to us on this simple request.”
“Stop issuing public statements and come to the table with us to discuss this matter,” he added.
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