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.”

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.”