Women achievers feted at the Senate

Women achievers are role models not just to young girls, but to young boys, as well
Manifestation on outstanding women commended by the Senate

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Thank you, Mr. President, just a short intervention. I join my colleagues in honoring the women present with us today, and those who are not here, the TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) awardees.

Mr President, what I’d like to emphasize is this: when we showcase women and what they have achieved, it is very common that we say that little girls will see them, and know what their full potential can be. And this is the role that they now have because they are paving the way for young girls.

But, I had the chance to speak to two of our Jiu Jitsu international champions over here [World Jiu-Jitsu champions Meggie Ochoa and Kimberly Custodio]. And I told them, aside from inspiring the little girls, they are also inspiring the future of boys who mingle with these little girls. These boys will understand that women equally hold the fort, that women are equal partners. In fact, in many instances, and many of my dear [male] colleagues here will admit, that their partner is the ‘better’ partner: running the household, taking care of the children, and also working in whatever career they have. That is the truth, your honor.

And until men, and for that matter, young boys are able to see that through women like them who pave the way, we will continue to have the struggle of inequality. And for that reason, I honor all of you because you show the world, both boys and girls, what women can achieve. Congratulations and thank you, dear colleagues, for taking the time to honor these women. #

Pia Cayetano
In her manifestation acknowledging outstanding women feted at the Senate, Senator Pia S. Cayetano stressed that women achievers are inspiring models not just to young girls, but to young boys as well, particularly in instilling awareness on gender equality and respect for women.
Senators commend the 2022 awardees of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) at the first session of the Senate in 2023.
World Jiu-Jitsu Champions
Senator Pia S. Cayetano poses with Philippine Jiu-Jitsu team members Meggie Ochoa and Kimberly Custodio, gold medalists at the 2022 Ju-Jitsu World Championships, and Team PH coach, Stephen Kamphuis.

COA clears EJ Obiena

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

The truth is finally out! The Commission on Audit (COA) has declared that pole vaulter EJ Obiena did not misuse the P10 million training fund that was directly given to him, which resulted from PATAFA’s (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association) repeated failure to liquidate on time past gov’t financial aid to its athletes.

In addition, COA said that the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has committed to follow state auditors’ recommendations to prevent similar situations in the future, where the athlete is unduly burdened with liquidation duties, instead of just focusing on training and competition.

Regrettably, this controversy took a big toll on EJ and his family. The Senate even had to step in. The harassment against EJ must end, and I hope that no other athlete would ever experience the ordeal he went through, when all he wants is to compete and bring honor to our country.

Like all our national athletes, EJ needs support from Filipinos and our sports governing bodies. From my end, I have filed the Roadmap for Sports Excellence bill, which seeks sustained funding and a long-term vision for our sports programs.

EJ is now in the US about to compete in the World Athletics Championships. Let’s cover him in prayers – may he have a great performance and feel our love and support. #

EJ Obiena and Senator PIa Cayetano
“EJ is now in the US about to compete in the World Athletics Championships. Let’s cover him in prayers – may he have a great performance and feel our love and support.”

EJ-PATAFA settlement hailed

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
On the settlement reached between EJ Obiena and PATAFA

It’s over!

This long running ordeal between world no.5 Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and his national sports association, PATAFA, has come to an end.

The Philippine Sports Commission has announced that EJ has been endorsed to play in the Southeast Asian Games and the World Outdoor Athletics championship.  All details regarding the mediation are confidential.

I look forward to seeing EJ jump again for the honor and glory of our country! #

EJ Obiena and Sen Pia Cayetano
The Philippine Sports Commission has announced that EJ has been endorsed to play in the Southeast Asian Games and the World Outdoor Athletics championship. 

Why PATAFA should be cited in contempt

Statement by Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Today, I filed a motion to cite the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association’s (PATAFA) Board Members in contempt. This is for disobeying the Senate Committee on Sports’ order for PATAFA to amicably settle its differences with Philippine Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) as the mediator. In compliance with the requirements of Section 18 of the Senate Rules, several colleagues have co-signed my motion. They include Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Francis Tolentino, and Senator Panfilo Lacson.

To recall, during the 07 February 2022 hearing of the Senate Committee on Sports, Obiena presented documents proving that he had fully transmitted payments for the coaching fees of Coach Vitaly Petrov, who confirmed receiving the same. Obiena also showed an email from the PSC auditing team confirming that he has completed and submitted all the required liquidation reports. Obiena did admit to delays in sending the payments, which he attributed to the difficulties he encountered in handling the funds, such as the conversion of Philippine pesos to Euros, as well as the late transfer of his training funds.

Despite the clear presentation made by Obiena, PATAFA still refused to acknowledge that he had fully paid his coach, and even raised doubts on the authenticity of his liquidation reports. Obiena had even asked for assistance in handling the funds. However, this request was not only denied, but was also used by PATAFA to raise issues and hurl accusations against him.

This prompted the Senate Committee on Sports to order PATAFA and Obiena to go into mediation with the assistance of PSC, with the end in view of settling this matter so Obiena could focus on his training and upcoming competitions. But a mere four days after both parties agreed to the mediation during the said hearing, PATAFA filed a case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland. This is an act of bad faith, as PATAFA practically and effectively closed any possibility of amicable settlement with Obiena. PATAFA has clearly escalated the conflict by giving Obiena another problem that will distract him from his training and consume his time, efforts, and resources. This is not the way you treat a national athlete, and an Olympian at that.

That is why I filed the motion to cite PATAFA’s Board Members in contempt. They could have also been the ones who authorized their President, Mr. Philip Ella Juico, to persecute Obiena in every possible way and to disobey the orders of the Senate Committee on Sports. But as due process will be observed, PATAFA’s Board Members will be given the opportunity to explain their actions.

Meanwhile, PATAFA continues to rear its ugly head. Its continuous denial of Obiena’s requests to represent the country in international athletics competitions has undermined the development of Philippine sports. With this condemnable act, PATAFA has lost all moral authority to lead the track and field sports program of the country. #

BELOW: Screenshots of Senator Pia Cayetano’s motion to cite the PATAFA Board Members in contempt. Co-signatories of the motion include Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Francis Tolentino, and Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano: “This is not the way you treat a national athlete, and an Olympian at that.”

A disservice to PH sports

PATAFA has lost all moral authority to lead PH’s track and field program

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

In recent months, we have all witnessed the actions PATAFA has taken to destroy a world-class athlete, as well as the image of the Philippines before the sporting world.

Their exclusion of EJ Obiena – Asia’s record holder and the world’s current top 5-ranked pole vaulter – from the country’s roster for the Southeast Asian Games, is not only anti-athlete, but also anti-Filipino. The questions they raised surrounding the payment of Obiena’s Coach have all been answered. And yet their desire to wreak havoc on Philippine sports and this young man’s future continues.

With this condemnable act, PATAFA’s leadership has lost all moral authority to lead our track and field sports program. They deserve to be purged from our NSAs list to allow Philippine track and field a fresh start, and for our athletes to genuinely develop into world-class caliber.

While the Philippine Olympic Committee’s chair Tolentino has called out PATAFA on this, we await our national sports leaders to condemn PATAFA’s actions and to allow Obiena to play in the SEA Games and other major international athletics competitions.

We must all work together to stop the madness of PATAFA, before it’s too late. #

New Clark City Athletics Stadium
Senator Pia Cayetano: “PATAFA’s leadership has lost all moral authority to lead our track and field sports program.”


PATAFA’s actions show what’s wrong in PH sports

The Philippines deserves better than PATAFA

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Wow, PATAFA, your actions demonstrate the worst of Philippine sports! Talagang okay lang sa inyo na wala tayong representative sa mga major international sports competitions?

Despite EJ Obiena’s detailed explanation at the Senate hearing proving that his coach has been fully paid, and which the latter has affirmed, PATAFA rejected his request to be endorsed to compete in the SEA Games, Asian Games, and other world athletics events.

PATAFA has chosen to deprive Filipinos of being represented by this talented young man who holds the Asian record, has reached Top 3 in the world pole vault rankings, and was #1 recently in the Orlen Cup and Orlen Copernicus Cup in Europe. The Philippines deserves better than PATAFA.#

EJ Obiena
Senator Pia Cayetano has slammed PATAFA for rejecting pole vaulter EJ Obiena’s request to be endorsed to play in upcoming major international competitions.

Senate inquiry on the EJ Obiena-PATAFA row

We should help our athletes compete at the highest level, not destroy them

Opening statement by Senator Pia Cayetano
February 7, 2022

Mr. Chairman, I filed Senate Resolution 982, along with the Senate President. So it’s here, I will not explain anymore the details, they’re all here.

If you read the “now, therefore, be it resolved” section at the very end, it basically says that “the end in view here is to strengthen relevant laws and policies to ensure athletes’ welfare and sports development in the country, including the removal of administrative burden placed upon athletes to enable them to focus on their training and competition.”

So that is our goal here, Mr. Chairman. We have a situation where we have an extremely talented athlete representing our country, he has reached the Olympic level. If I am not mistaken, he was the first or one of the first to qualify in the last Olympics, because he qualified even a few years before the Olympics actually took place. But in the last years or so, leading up to the Olympics. And now, wherein I understand there’s going to be multiple competitions coming up, including the SEA Games of course, he has had to deal with a situation where not only does he not have the support of his NSA, he has actually been ousted by his [National Sports Association or NSA], but he has had to be at the receiving end of accusations on his character, your honor.

I am an athlete too. I am not on the same level of EJ. Malayo po. But I also represented our country. And I continue to be an athlete in my own right, joining various competitions in triathlon and other sports that I love. And I need a good night’s sleep. I need to have that peace of mind that I can totally focus on my game. And this is me, an amateur athlete, what more for a high level international Olympian?

Now, the records will show, it will come out later on, what this young boy has had to deal with, in the months leading up to his competition, not just accusations, but all kinds of statements and calls in the middle of the night being made. I don’t even call my daughters when they have an exam. And this young man, as will be narrated later on, because he lives in a different timezone as well, has had to deal with so much stress coming no less from the NSA.

I will let him narrate the situation, but the only thing I am focusing on in this opening statement of mine is simple. We all know that to be a great athlete, not only do you have to have the skill and the physical attributes. You also need that mental mindset. And we have done everything to destroy this mindset of this young boy.

So I wanna hear from all the experts here, heads of your own NSAs, members of different associations, ganun ba tayo kayabang? Do we have 10, 20, or 50 track and field athletes going to the Olympics, such that we treat our athlete this way? We’re the adults, we’re the policymakers. So I want to know what kind of support we are giving these athletes.

Let’s get the record straight, because during the budget deliberations of the Senate, I moved to recall the budget of the [Philippine Sports Commission or PSC] because of their failure to exercise their supervisorial powers over the NSAs, after having seen how PATAFA was dealing with EJ. And I got a commitment before the entire Senate, no less from the Chairman of the PSC that he will resolve this. But is it resolved? Up to now, we have a situation where EJ doesn’t even know if he will get the endorsement of his NSA. In fact, what he knows is he will not. And is that what we want for our country?

Kung nagkamali si EJ, let’s see what is a commensurate reaction on the part of PSC kung na-delay man siya sa liquidation. Pero I call on every single one of us here attending, aminin niyo ma assistant kayo para mag-liquidate ng sarili niyong mga gastos. Kahit ako, may assistant ako to help me liquidate all my expenses. And we expect our national athlete, who trains 8-12 hours a day, living alone, with a different timezone, to liquidate on the spot, and if he doesn’t, he’s a bad person? He deserves to be insulted? And he deserves to be threatened to be taken out of a sport that he dedicated his life to? Is that how we treat our national athletes?

So that’s the reason for this, your honor. My record will show that I don’t like this kind of investigation. My work is to do the nitty gritty of lawmaking. But if we have to go through this by way of example to learn our lessons, then EJ is the sacrificial lamb, sorry to say. He’s willing to come here. By the way, this hearing is called at a time that it’s 4 am where he is. But he’s here because he wants to set the record straight and also explain his side. Of course, we invited everyone because we also want to hear the other side but at the end of the day, my objective, as I stated in the resolution, is to craft legislation and remove the administrative burden placed upon athletes to enable them to focus on their training and their competition.

That is my opening statement, your honor. #

EJ Obiena
Pole vaulter EJ Obiena attending the Senate inquiry: I’m ‘all in’ for mediation and to clear the false allegations against me.
EJ Obiena mother Jeanette
Jeanette Obiena says the long-standing controversy has taken a heavy toll on the mental health of her son, EJ and other family members.
Hidilyn Diaz
PH’s first Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz says there should be a recognition by sports authorities that elite athletes compete at a very different level, where they are subjected to greater stress and pressure.

Recognizing women in sports

Senator Pia sponsors resolution honoring boxing trainer Donaire

By Senate PRIB

The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution honoring Rachel Marcial Donaire for being the first woman and Filipina to receive the honorary World Boxing Council (WBC) Trainer’s Belt.

Senator Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the measure, said Marcial Donaire is the woman behind the defensive strategies of renowned Filipino boxer Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr., who is a four-division conqueror and a three-time bantamweight champion.

“This placed Rachel Donaire in an unprecedented position as she became the first ever woman head trainer to coach a world champion,” Cayetano said, adding that the WBC Trainer’s Belt is given to boxing coaches and trainers who are recognized for their valuable work alongside legendary boxing champions.

Proposed Senate Resolution No. 983 honors Rachel Donaire as “a leading example of a strong Filipina, as she inspires fellow women by her ability to efficiently juggle her roles as a mother, wife, manager, strength and conditioning coach, and now as Nonito Donaire’s head coach.”

Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri expressed support for the measure, saying “we should have more women in all sectors not only as fighters or as the athletes themselves, but as educators, trainers or sports specialists.”

Following his victory last May 2021 for the WBC World Bantamweight Title against French boxer Nordine Oubaali in Carson, California, Nonito Donaire paid tribute to his wife and trainer, Rachel Donaire, whom he described as “the voice in the corner,” being the only one he could hear during the night of the championship.

“I am proud and honored to sponsor this measure commending and congratulating Rachel Donaire for forging her own path, a path ‘til now was untrodden by women,” Cayetano said.

Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano sponsors a resolution commending Rachel Donaire for forging her own path in the male-dominated world of boxing. Rachel, the wife and trainer of world boxing champion Nonito Donaire, Jr., is the first woman to receive the honorary World Boxing Council (WBC) Trainer’s Belt.

On PATAFA’s decision to expel EJ Obiena from the national team

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano 
Former National Athlete

On PATAFA’s decision to drop top pole vaulter EJ Obiena from the national pool

I am beyond disgusted with the latest actions and statements of PATAFA’s Philip Juico who is single-handedly killing the spirit of Filipino athletes.

What should have been a feel good movie with EJ ending the year as the top Asian pole vaulter and ranked  #3 in the world, has turned into a horror movie where a vindictive Juico is attacking and attacking EJ.

Despite the underhanded treatment EJ received from PATAFA, even after rendering a full accounting of his training funds and his coach’s confirmation acknowledging receipt of his full payment, it must be noted that EJ himself has said that he was willing to join the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) mediation process after the POC has concluded its own investigation.

I expect PSC to step up and put an end to all this now. During the Senate’s budget deliberations last December, PSC Chair William Ramirez committed to step in and act decisively. The PSC even warned in a subsequent statement that it would be constrained to sanction PATAFA should the mediation process fail. #

Philippine Sports
Senator Pia Cayetano expresses support for pole vaulter EJ Obiena and calls on the Philippine Sports Commission to act swiftly to resolve the conflict between Obiena and PATAFA.

Speech hailing PH’s Olympic medalists

Today, I join my colleagues and the entire nation in honoring our Olympic medalists: Hidilyn Diaz, who brought home the gold, Nesthy Petecio (silver), Carlo Paalam (silver), and Eumir Marcial (bronze), and for this historic record haul.

As I’ve said before, these athletes, these medalists did not get their Olympic medals by the stroke of luck. It was grueling hard work, prioritizing training, early mornings, forgetting their love lives, maybe even compromising family responsibilities. These are sacrifices that they made for over a decade to get to where they are today, to bring pride and honor to our country.

These are the struggles that they dealt with and will continue to deal with in the years to come as they continue to represent us.

As I’ve said, when they walked onto the Olympic floor, onto the stadium, that medal was already hung over their necks because of the years of practice and training and sacrifices that they have made.

Let me quickly start by commending 23-year-old Carlo Paalam, who grew up in Cagayan de Oro City, and started training in 2009 as a young boy to help his family live a better life. Salamat sa ginawa mo para sa ating bansa, ipagpatuloy mo ito, Carlo.

And then, 25-year-old Eumir Marcial, who also started boxing at a very young age, with his father as his first trainer, becoming one of Asia’s most highly regarded young boxers. Salamat sa binigay mong karangalan sa ating lahat.

And now, Mr. President, I would like to bring a women’s…a gender perspective, to my short speech. Mr. President, our Filipina athletes have come a long way. Obviously, the whole nation rejoiced when Hidilyn brought home the gold medal, the first gold medal of our country, brought home by a woman.

But let me give a little bit of history. I personally got interested when and how women started competing in the highest level because as a runner in college, I would always tune in, as a young kid, I was already tuning in to the Olympics. And when I was a varsity player in college, and a runner already, I found out that it was only in the 1984 Olympics that there was a category for (women’s marathon).

So basically, the first (women long-distance runners) joined the Olympics only in 1984. And at that time, that was shocking to me because women were running, they have been competing. But the Olympics only recognized women as serious long-distance runners in 1984.

So I decided to research about boxing and weightlifting, the sports where our women athletes also brought home the medal. And Mr. President, this is quite interesting.

When our silver medalist, 29-year-old Nesthy Petecio, made the lineup for the women’s national boxing team at 15 years old, boxing wasn’t even recognized for women in the Olympics yet. So can you imagine that? Sumubo siya, maybe knowing or not really knowing, kasi at that age, laban ka lang, pero if things did not change, there would not even be women boxers in the Olympics. Well this changed in 2012, only 9 years ago. So Nesthy Petecio is really a history in the making kasi wala pang 10 years na nagko-compete ang mga kababaihan in boxing at the highest level in the Olympics.

Now what about weightlifting? Consider this. When Hidilyn was born, weightlifting for women was not yet a sport in the Olympics. Pang-lalaki lang. You will notice that… from my research, it appears that anything that is extremely strenuous, so obviously, including long-distance running, weightlifting, and boxing – women were regarded as too frail to compete. So in the sport of weightlifting, it was only in the year 2000 that it became an Olympic sport open to women. And from what I know, Hidilyn started training when she was 10, so she was training around 2001. And that was just one year since the Olympics recognized women as weightlifters.

So it’s interesting how far we have come, how our Filipina athletes have led the way in promoting their sports at the Olympic level and bringing recognition to women athletes. Mr. President, our women athletes face a lot of obstacles. Sometimes, more than men, many times, more than men. Precisely because even at the highest level, their participation was not even recognized until lately. And as I had said in my earlier speech when we also honored the athletes, I can just imagine, even in my sport as a runner, there are questions and criticisms on how a woman would engage in that sport. What more for these athletes, who are breaking down barriers, who are cracking the glass ceiling by competing in a sport that is traditionally known to be the sports of men?

So they represent the future of women in this country, not just in sports, but in all aspects of women’s lives. I have always been a believer that men and women must work together in order for us to have a better country. And this is already a significant breakthrough, to see that 2 out of our 4 medalists are women.

And even in the lineup of our Olympians, quite a number of them are women. So I’d like to end by honoring all the athletes who represented us in the Olympics.

And before that, Mr. President, I would like to point out that I know my colleagues and I are of one view that we want to continue to support the athletes.

As we approach the budget season, let’s remember that if there was any glimmer of hope during this pandemic, if there was any light at the never-ending darkness of the COVID tunnel, it was our Olympians. We suspended the session to watch the Olympians compete, to watch them live. They brought us hope, they brought us joy for a few minutes in time, we forgot our misery of living in this time of COVID.

I hope that we remember that, their feats, the joy they brought us during the budget season. I hope that we can provide the kind of support that has been shown after the medals were brought home. I hope that we can provide this kind of funding in the budget so that these athletes can continue training and doing what they do best: bringing hope and honor to our country. God bless you. Mabuhay po kayong mga medalists natin, mabuhay po lahat ng Olympians, at pati po ang coaches and trainers.

I forgot, I need to add one more thing. Unfortunately, wala tayong Paralympics participant that brought home a medal. However, I’d like to honor their participation as well. They also need more support because it’s even harder for them, given their disabilities. And I’d like to point out, in RA 10699, which I think was authored by our Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Sen. Sonny… This is the ‘National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act.’ His honor accepted my amendment, which was to make the cash award that we give our Paralympic participants the same as our regularly-abled athletes. This is so important, Mr. President, because as I was going through the news, I found out that in the US, it’s the first Paralympics that they will be giving equal amount to their Paralympians. Nauna pa tayo. So once in a while, actually naman pagdating sa policy, mabilis tayo mauna. It’s really the implementation where we’re a little bit slow. So I hope the next time we honor our Olympians, may kasama na rinh Paralympians. And I hope we can get the support of our colleagues when we review the budget and literally put our money where our mouth is. Ipakita natin kung gaano natin sila kamahal, kung gaano natin nirerespeto ang propesyon nila.

Thank you again and God bless our Filipino athletes. Thank you, Mr. President. #