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Patafa gets dealt key hand for mediation after World Athletics backing

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 05:15 AM February 16, 2022
PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico during the 2017 Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards Night. Photo

FILE – PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico during the 2017 Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards Night. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines–World Athletics backed the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association’s (Patafa) assertion as the chief authority on settling disputes within its turf, giving the national federation a vital hand to play in a looming mediation.

The declaration came from no less than World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, who reiterated in a letter last Feb. 10, 2022, from Monaco that Patafa retains the right to resolve issues internally, including the association’s long-standing feud with pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena.

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Under the World Athletics Constitution regarding obligations of member federations, the Patafa is responsible for “administering, promoting and developing athletics in the Philippines in accordance with the purposes of World Athletics.’’

Coe did not specifically mention the Obiena case, which will undergo mediation as ordered by the Senate and agreed upon by the parties involved. But the backing will give Patafa a bit of a leverage in the talks, given that it has willingly agreed to undergo mediation under a third party despite its inherent autonomy to resolve issues like its current rift with Obiena over what it alleges as misappropriation of funds and falsified documents.

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Coe, a two-time middle distance Olympic gold medalist, cited resolving disputes should be done “in a member federation’s constitution or applicable relevant rules and regulations and that these are run fairly for all concerned.’’

Coe likewise mentioned that the Patafa is a member federation of World Athletics and the sole governing body of athletics in the Philippines.

Internal matter

Coe, the head of the 2012 London Olympics Organizing Committee, wrote Patafa president Philip Ella Juico after the Patafa Board of Trustees updated World Athletics on certain actions the association took to promote accountability and integrity among its athletes and the entire federation.

“As previously stated, we consider this (the procedures undertaken by the Patafa board and the committee assigned to undertake the necessary investigations) an internal matter,’’ said Coe, a holder of three world records in a single year during his prime.

“We encourage all internal disputes of a member to be resolved with stated processes and procedures,’’ he added.

The Patafa put up a committee that investigated Obiena’s liability for allegedly not paying the salaries of his Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov on time for 28 months. Patafa said the money forked over to Obiena for Petrov’s salary amounted to 85,000 Euros (roughly P5.3 million).

Obiena snapped back at Patafa, saying late payments do not constitute a crime following his delayed disbursements of Petrov’s salaries in three tranches back in November 2021.

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Petrov has testified that he has already been paid in full.

Documents scrutiny

Philippines' Ernest John Obiena competes during the indoor men's pole vault Beijer gala event in Uppsala, Sweden, on February 9, 2022.

Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena competes during the indoor men’s pole vault Beijer gala event in Uppsala, Sweden, on February 9, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

While mediating the issue will try to rebuild bridges burned between Patafa and Obiena, a separate scrutiny of Obiena’s liquidation reports is currently being undertaken by the Commission of Audit. Sources had earlier told the Inquirer that an initial review of the documents showed nothing out of order.

“We thank Lord Sebastian Coe, who was once a member of the British Parliament, for his succinct grasp of the issues and his very clear response regarding the work of Patafa in upholding the values of World Athletics,’’ said House Deputy Speaker and Patafa chair Rufus Rodriguez.

“This statement defines our working relationship with other sports stakeholders. We should be guided by it and work in harmony,’’ added the Cagayan de Oro representative.

Obiena, currently No. 5 in the world rankings, was recently dropped by the Patafa from its rolls of national athletes, but Rodriguez made it clear that the Tokyo Olympian wasn’t expelled from the track and field association.

Obiena has also agreed to enter mediation with the Patafa with the Philippine Sports Commission asked to set up the parameters of the truce for the third time. He backed out of the initial two attempts at mediation, alleging “bad faith” on Patafa’s part first and then saying he would focus first on competition next.

Coe, who was credited for the overall success and financial transparency of the 2012 London Olympics, said Juico is a member of the World Athletics Governance and Integrity Reform working group and the Values Commission “and provided valuable inputs to support the implementation and promotion of these critical areas of work, which are fundamental to underpin our sport and the governance of athletics.’’

Juico, the voting delegate for the Philippines at the World Athletics Congress last November, was recently declared persona non grata by the Philippine Olympic Committee for allegedly mishandling Obiena’s financial issues.

“We can confirm that Patafa and its current office bearers are set out in the World Athletics website. The outcome of the last Patafa elective general assembly held on Nov. 10, 2021, was that Dr. Philip Juico was elected as the office bearer of president,’’ said Coe.

“This statement [of World Athletics] should settle with finality the metes and bounds of all sports stakeholders especially with respect to the role of the Patafa,’’ said Patafa board member Felix Tiukinhoy.

“This statement should put a stop to overreaching and serve as an inspiration to other NSAs (national sports associations) who look with concern at the actuations of sports leaders,’’ added the Cebu-based businessman and sports leader.

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TAGS: EJ Obiena, Patafa, Philip Ella Juico, World Athletics
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