Suspension over Obiena rift ‘uncalled for, premature’

PATAFA says the Philippine Olympic Committee’s move to suspend the national athletics board was ‘uncalled for’ since there is an ongoing mediation

MANILA, Philippines – Although suspended by the Olympic Committee (POC), officials of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) have stood their ground as the recognized national sports association (NSA) by the international federation.

PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico said Wednesday, March 23, that it’s business as usual for them as the athletes continue to train in preparation for the Hanoi Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam this May.

“We are invoking our autonomy,” said Juico during an online press conference. “We are training ourselves, we have our own coaches, we have a training bubble.”

“PATAFA is the recognized NSA, as far as I know (by the International Association of Athletics Federations), and the one recognized by the Philippine Sports Commission with regard to funding the team to be formed.”

We’ll follow the law. We’ll follow that process,” he said.

Juico said that PATAFA has been updating the IAAF.

“They know what’s going on, they are aware of what’s going on,” said Juico, who cited a February 10 letter from IAAF chief Sebastian Coe, who wants things to be resolved internally.

“What’s going on has to be resolved internally, this is an internal matter and that we should respect the autonomy of the federation… that remains to be their position, and that remains to be our position.”

Last March 17, the POC executive board, led by POC president Representative Bambol Tolentino, suspended PATAFA during its special meeting due to its conflict with its athlete, pole vaulter EJ Obiena. A few weeks earlier the PATAFA board excluded Obiena in its roster for the 31st SEA Games.

The suspension will be effective for 90 days, to be ratified by the POC general assembly on its regular meeting on March 30.

If ratified, the athletics association will not have an authority in the formation of its national teams to the SEAG. That function will be under the POC.

During the said special meeting, nine members of the board voted for the suspension, while two of its members, Charlie Ho of netball and gymnastics chief Cynthia Carrion abstained.

POC Chairman Steve Hontiveros and International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski were absent from the special meeting.

The suspension, however, came at the time when Juico and Obiena are in mediation led by PSC chairman Butch Ramirez.

TIMELINE: Falling out with PATAFA mars EJ Obiena rise

Last Tuesday, the third round of mediation took place, and according to Juico “we are soldiering on, it requires a lot of time and we are being very patient about it.”

PATAFA chairman Rufus Rodriguez, a congressman from the second district of Cagayan de Oro City, said the POC move to suspend the PATAFA board was “uncalled for” since there is an ongoing mediation.

“Obiena has refused to have mediation three times,” said Rodriguez. “Now he’s joining it (and) we’ve been meeting now, and here comes POC just out of nowhere suspending us.”

“They shouldn’t have done that. This is uncalled for, premature and arbitrary. The suspension is illegal, unfounded, arbitrary and whimsical. PATAFA will appeal the suspension in arbitration.”

Other NSA officials attended the online press briefing, including weightlifting president Monico Puentevella, squash’s Robert Bachmann, and Hontiveros.

Frank Elizalde, the former IOC representative to the Philippines, also attended the online media conference, although he insisted that he’s just there to observe.

But he advised all camps to talk it over to have an end to this issue.

“I really have no comment at this time. I’m just a spectator here,” said Elizalde.

“I have no comment whatsoever with the Philippine Olympic Committee right now, so I would rather withhold making any comments till I see how things are developing. It’s a matter of sitting down and threshing thing’s out,” he said. – Rappler.com

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