Athletics

PATAFA president Juico vows to contest POC persona non grata order

JR Isaga
PATAFA president Juico vows to contest POC persona non grata order

ELITE. Olympian EJ Obiena is the current Asian pole vault record holder.

Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters

‘The harassment isn’t there,’ says national athletics president Philip Juico after the Philippine Olympic Committee declared him persona non grata over his rift with pole vault star EJ Obiena

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president Philip “Popoy” Juico has announced his plan to contest the Philippine Olympic Committee’s (POC) decision to declare him persona non grata in the wake of the EJ Obiena controversy.

PATAFA president Juico vows to contest POC persona non grata order

In the ANC program After The Fact on Wednesday, December 29, the embattled national sports association (NSA) chief explained how the POC decision to no longer recognize him as president is not within its purview.

“Of course we will fight [the POC decision],” said Juico. “When they asked me to attend a so-called clarificatory hearing, we attended, but we said that this is not within their jurisdiction.”

Following its investigation, the POC Ethics Committee concluded last Tuesday that Juico “harassed” Obiena by making “malicious public accusations.”

Since late November, the Juico-led PATAFA has been in a public spat with Obiena and his coach Vitaly Petrov, which started with an accusation that the star pole vaulter “embezzled” funds worth 85,000 euros (P4.8 million) allocated for his Ukrainian mentor.

“This is an intra-NSA issue, and under their own constitution, the POC constitution, such intra-NSA issues are to be resolved first within the NSA, and only when there is no satisfactory solution can the POC come in,” said Juico.

Obiena’s funding for his training in Italy has since been suspended amid the ongoing investigation, but Juico insisted that there was no harassment from his end.

“It’s not me against [Obiena],” said Juico. “It’s the PATAFA itself, and the issues raised against him in the investigation that was conducted because of certain money matters. The harassment isn’t there.”

PATAFA claimed that Obiena falsified liquidation reports and failed to pay his coach’s fees, and that Petrov and pole vault great Sergey Bubka brought up the matter to the NSA first. (READ: ‘I was tricked’: Obiena coach says no time for ‘witch hunt’)

But after Petrov himself came out in defense of his ward, the NSA softened its tone on embezzlement, and instead made it an issue of late payments, but not before Obiena hit back with his own statements, and even threatened to retire altogether.

“There was no due process, no benefit of the doubt,” Obiena said in a virtual press conference when the controversy unfolded last month. “They’ve slandered my name. I represent the federation before anything else. I deserve an apology, retraction of that, and public apology for whatever is happening.”

Petrov, who was sitting right next to Obiena in the video conference, added: “I don’t understand what this federation is doing, and what comes out of this. This is a shame.”

Although the row does remain an intra-NSA issue, the Senate has already intervened weeks before the POC did, and recalled the Philippine Sports Commission’s (PSC) 2022 budget due to the commission’s “hands-off” approach in the PATAFA-Obiena matter.

While the PSC had then stepped in to mediate the two conflicting sides, it has since retracted its offer in order for PATAFA “to proceed and finalize their investigation.”

“[The POC] said that this is not intra-NSA because Mr. Obiena complained about my harassment of him as president, but he is a member of the PATAFA so it’s an issue between the management and the board, in this case, and him,” said Juico.

Amid all these distractions from the ever-complicated Philippine sports politics arena, the 26-year-old Obiena, currently the sixth-ranked pole vaulter in the world and the Asian record holder, spurned multiple citizenship offers to stay as a Filipino athlete. – Rappler.com

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