THE Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), headed by president Philip Ella Juico, is still hoping to find a win-win solution in the controversy involving Tokyo Olympics pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena.
In fact, Juico said the PATAFA Board is open to mediation with Obiena once the investigation on the issue is finished.
“There is no such thing as bridges that have been burned,” said Juico during the 129th episode of the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom on Saturday.
“The PATAFA is willing to talk to Obiena and discuss any problem, but we need to finish the investigation first so we will know the bounds of the discussions,” added Juico during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“We are mature people. We can always talk, but we have a commitment to the PSC, the PATAFA Board and to everyone to finish the investigation first,” explained the long-time PATAFA president.
Juico also said the PATAFA has already formed an investigating committee, headed by Cebu-based sportsman Felix Tiukinhoy, to look into Obiena’s alleged misuse of government funds intended for his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.
This includes looking at liquidation records and date stamps of payments.
Juico said he has already agreed with PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez to handle the issue with Obiena privately.
“As a former PSC chairman, I respect the request of Chairman Ramirez to handle the matters privately,” explained Juico, while claiming the PATAFA is bound to protect the honor and integrity of both the association and the athletes.
Juico said he was surprised that Obiena and coach Petrov went to the media to air their complaints.
“First, PATAFA never leaked any document. Nagtatanong lang kami and we gave Obiena enough time to respond. I just find it strange na we are doing our jobs as part of our governance and our task to protect government assets, pero kami pa ang idinidiin ng iba.”
Juico also said the association never neglected Obiena during his training and competitions.
He said the pole vault champion received around P40 million worth of financial assistance over the last five to six years, excluding allowances and incentives.
.“That’s probably more than what Carlo Paalam or Nesthy Petecio or Eumir Marcial got,” said Juico, referring to the three Tokyo Olympics boxing medalists.
Earlier, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) has asked its Ethics Committee to convene next week to look into the complaint of Obiena against PATAFA.
“The POC assures that it will resolve the issues expediently and hold people who are accountable,” said POC President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino in a statement.
Rowing’s Patrick Gregorio chairs the Ethics Committee with sailing’s Ernesto Echauz and bridge’s Gerry Alquiros as members.
Obiena earlier filed his complaint against PATAFA and Juico before the Athletes Commission and Safe Sports Technical Working Group for “alleged harassment, attempting to collude with coaches to fabricate statements, psychological abuse, bullying and neglect of duty.”