Tolentino questions Juico seeking relief from international arbitrator
An effort to resolve the conflict between the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) and its star pole vaulter EJ Obiena via the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has drawn rebuke from the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), which questioned the lack of good faith in the move.
“So what happened to the truce forged through the Senate? The mediation that both parties—Obiena and the Patafa—agreed on before our honorable Senators?’’ said POC president and Rep. Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino.
The POC will get a chance to officially question Patafa’s motive for knocking on the doors of the CAS—it has been named a respondent in the “statement of appeal” made to the international sports tribunal based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Until then, however, sources told the Inquirer that the appeal risks the ongoing mediation between Patafa and Obiena, who could retreat from the negotiating table on the heels of the development.
The Tokyo Olympian and Asian record holder had already previously rejected mediation on the grounds of “bad faith” on the Patafa side.
The appeal was filed by Patafa president Philip Ella Juico on Feb. 11, after the feuding parties promised to submit themselves to mediation during a Senate inquiry on the controversy presided by Senate Committee on Sports Chair Christopher Lawrence “Bong’’ Go.
Obiena and Patafa officials, headed by Juico and its chair Deputy House Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, likewise declared their availability to a mediation in the Senate hearing attended by Senators Francis Tolentino, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon and Ronald dela Rosa.
Juico and Obiena could not be reached for comment at press time.
“The POC thought they (Patafa) were for mediation and even EJ already agreed to the procedure. Where’s the good faith there?’’ said Tolentino after emerging from yesterday’s POC executive board (EB) meeting held at Knights Templar Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay City.
The POC executive board has authorized Tolentino to hire a lawyer, appoint a CAS juror and prepare the necessary payment to be allocated for the defense team. Lawyer Charlie Ho of netball filed the motion before the POC EB for the appropriation of the lawyers and CAS fees.
“Filing a complaint against Obiena and the POC means the Patafa is included in the complaint because Patafa is a member of the organization,’’ said Tolentino.
The complaint, which cited the POC’s breach of jurisdiction on the Obiena issue, is seeking the revocation of the persona non grata tag slapped on Juico and the dismissal of the case Obiena filed with the POC through the athletes commission.
“The POC is not a judicial body but a corporate one and the focal issue is on the attitude and unethical conduct,’’ said lawyer Wharton Chan, the POC’s chief legal counsel, on Obiena’s complaint of harassment versus Patafa, which led to the body declaring Juico persona non grata.
“The CAS asked for more pieces of evidence from the Patafa such as proof of notices, among others,’’ said Chan.
Tolentino reiterated that the persona non grata tag on Juico would be lifted once Obiena and Juico patch things up.
The CAS was established by the International Olympic Committee to resolve sports-related disputes that are submitted to the body through ordinary arbitration or through appeal against the decisions of sports bodies or organizations.
The Patafa dropped Obiena from the rolls of national track and field athletes after charging him of misappropriating the salary of his coach, Vitaly Petrov, worth 85,000 Euros (roughly P5.3 million) and attempting to cover up the alleged fraud by submitting false liquidation reports.
Obiena declared that his only mistake was paying Petrov late, adding such an error does not constitute a crime.
The standoff between the two parties remains unresolved but fell into a lull after Obiena and Patafa agreed to subject themselves to mediation.