Budget Watch

Senate recalls PSC’s 2022 budget over ‘hands-off’ stand in EJ Obiena-PATAFA row

Mara Cepeda
Senate recalls PSC’s 2022 budget over ‘hands-off’ stand in EJ Obiena-PATAFA row

CALLING OUT THE PSC. Senator Pia Cayetano attends the plenary deliberations on the proposed 2022 budget on November 22, 2021.

Henzberg Austria/Senate PRIB

Senators agree the Philippine Sports Commission must do more to protect world-class Filipino athletes like EJ Obiena

The Senate recalled its approval of the Philippine Sports Commission’s (PSC) proposed P364.24-million budget in 2022 after it failed to intervene in the ongoing funding row between Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA). 

This rare move from senators came late Monday night, November 22, after Senator Pia Cayetano called out the PSC for its “hands-off” approach in dealing with PATAFA’s embezzling allegations against Obiena, which he and his coach already denied.

“Now the reason I am asking for the recall of the budget of PSC is because PSC took a hands-off approach. Sabi lang nila (They said), ‘Work it out.’ How can you do that to your national athlete?” asked Cayetano, a known champion for athletes’ welfare. 

“Pakialaman mo naman. Bigyan mo naman ng halaga ang ating national athlete na inakusahan na lang ng ganun ganun na lang,” she added.

(Intervene. Give value to our national athlete who has been accused just like that.) 

The PSC’s proposed budget earlier breezed through the plenary, which had already been endorsed for second reading last Monday, November 15. 

By recalling the PSC’s proposed budget, senators are delaying its approval in a bid to convince the commission to do better in protecting Obiena.

Obiena already said he would consider hanging up his spurs if he is unable to continue training in Formia, Italy, as PATAFA cut his funding over allegations that he embezzled around P4.8 million that was meant to be paid to his current coach, Vitaly Petrov.

Petrov, however, already denied PATAFA’s accusations and said Obiena already paid him in full. 

The PSC then said it would only step in “when it is appropriate.” 

“For now, let us allow PATAFA and EJ to sort the matter internally within their NSA (national sports association), as it should be. The PSC will intervene when it is appropriate,” said PSC chairman Butch Ramirez in a statement.

Cayetano said this is not enough. 

“There’s nothing that can be done to take away the shame and the embarrassment and the stress that was put upon this athlete as he is training right now and having to deal with all this. That’s all I am saying, your honor,” said the senator. 

Senators Richard Gordon and Joel Villanueva agreed with Cayetano, saying the PSC should step up in protecting world-class Filipino athletes like Obiena. 

No senator opposed Cayetano’s motion, so it was approved by the plenary. The Senate plans to hold its last day of deliberations on the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget on Tuesday, November 23. 

Boxing icon turned senator Manny Pacquiao, who is running for president in 2022, already urged the embattled Obiena to reconsider his retirement plans. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.