MANILA, Philippines – Amid the 29th Southeast Asian Games frenzy, there is another issue stealing the spotlight away from the biennial multi-sporting event scheduled on August 19-30 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The controversy about Mary Joy Tabal, the first Filipino marathon runner to qualify for the Olympics, has been spreading since the 2015 SEA Games where she clinched a silver medal for the Philippines.
Instead of the fire dying down, the issues are burning even more.
In the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) press conference on Monday, June 5 at the Philippine Olympic Committee’s office, the association stated their statements regarding the controversy.
PATAFA as a ‘revolving door’
“This is issue has been going on for too long, it is now time to take stop,” said PATAFA President Philip Juico. “We develop athletes who do the right thing and this is not just a matter of technical proficiency, values are involved here.”
According to a an official statement released in the press conference, PATAFA stated the selection of final lineup of the Philippine Team for the SEA Games doesn’t rely on performance alone.
PATAFA highlighted conditions it considered equally important for inclusion and retention on the national team, naming honor, fidelity to the national team, respect for authority, commitment to the federation and the absence of any abhorrent attitude of entitlement.
PATAFA doesn’t believe Tabal has expressed the amount of respect and obedience the association requires from a national athlete.
“This person (Tabal) has used PATAFA like a revolving door. She competes and then leaves,” Juico, who is also the current chairman of the Philippine Super Liga, said.
When asked if Juico will still let Tabal compete in the upcoming SEAG, he bluntly said, “We don’t like you (Tabal), you don’t want to follow the rules but (if ever we meet) I will talk to you and I will be civil.”
The 4-time division titlist in the National Milo Marathon Finals Tabal and her issues with the association sprouted due to participating in events like 2015 Los Angeles Marathon, which Tabal and marathon champion Rafael Poliquit competed in without permission from the PATAFA.
Others included Tabal’s sponsorship with Milo, her request to remain in Cebu City to train whilst the majority of the athletes are in Manila, and issues with her personal coach.
“This has been going on for too long. Others might get affected and that is what I’m afraid of. We need to stop this,” Juico said.
A privilege not a right
Jojo Posadas, the husband of renowned athlete Elma Muros, was also present in the meeting and shared his disappointment towards Tabal’s behavior.
“In my own opinion, I will not accept her. In the first place, does she know how to respect? You should obey first before you complain. You have to be a role model,” said Posadas.
“Our previous well-known athletes like Manny Pacquiao, Paeng Nepumuceno were never like that, who the hell is she criticizing the association?”
An athlete for almost 20 years, veteran Marestella Torres-Sunang also shared her side regarding the issue. “I never experienced any problem in the association because being an athlete, you have to follow the authority.
“Being an athlete, it is not all about the performance. Rather, you also have to follow and make sure you have the right attitude.”
High jump record holder Sean Guevarra only had one thing to say. “Being a national team member is a privilege, not a right.”
Tabal, who is currently on her way to the Philippines from Canada, will have her own press conference on Tuesday, May 6, in Cebu. – Rappler.com