MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Olympic Committee general assembly voted on Wednesday, January 26, to enforce the decision of declaring Philippine Athletics Track and Field (PATAFA) president Philip Ella Juico persona non grata following the official’s row with pole vault star EJ Obiena.
Thirty-six members of the general assembly, including Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and former Olympic swimmer Jessie Lacuna, voted in favor of the decision. International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworksi, netball, and dance sports were the three bodies who abstained. Ten sports did not cast their votes.
Five national sports associations – athletics, wushu, weightlifting, squash, and hockey – voted against the decision.
The decision followed after the POC Ethics Committee recommended to declare Juico persona non grata, which the Executive Board approved last December. According to the Ethics Committee headed by rowing association president Patrick Gregorio, Juico “harassed” Obiena by making “malicious public accusations.”
With the decision, Juico will not be acknowledged as president of PATAFA during general assemblies, but PATAFA can still function with its vice president and secretary-general.
But the POC can still revoke its decision depending on the events that will transpire between PATAFA and Obiena, who withdrew from the mediation offered by the Philippine Sports Committee (PSC).
“The GA can revisit and reconsider the decision of executive board and general assembly,” said POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.
Juico argued later Wednesday that POC did not give him due process as he claimed that he and several other NSA leaders did not receive the resolution that was voted on. He further argued that the 36 signatures were not verified.
“I may now be a persona non grata in the eyes of the POC, but this will not distract us in our quest for truth, accountability, transparency and justice in our federation,” said Juico.
“If this is the price I have to pay for holding my athlete accountable, so be it. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I will step out of the POC with my head held high.”
The POC vowed to fight for Obiena to represent the Philippines in the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games. The national Olympic committee will also support the 26-year-old privately if government funding will not be approved.
According to the PSC, Obiena completed the liquidation process on Tuesday.
Obiena, the Asian record holder, currently ranks No. 5 in the world. He is slated to defend his SEA Games gold and redeem himself in the Asiad. He was the only Asian to qualify in the the Tokyo Olympics pole vault finals where he finished 11th place.