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