MANILA, Philippines — Four senators are pushing to cite the board members of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association’s (Patafa) in contempt for “disobeying” the Senate order to settle differences with Filipino Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena.
The motion was filed Wednesday before the Senate committee on sports by Senators Pia Cayetano, Francis Tolentino, Panfilo Lacson, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
In the said motion, the senators pointed out that in a hearing conducted by the Senate committee on sports back in February, Obiena and Patafa were ordered to settle the issue regarding the athlete’s liquidation reports through a mediation proceeding to be conducted by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
However, the senators said the Patafa filed an arbitration case against Obiena before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland just four days after the Senate committee hearing.
“Patafa’s filing of the arbitration case violates this Honorable Committee’s order to undergo mediation proceedings. Obviously, this Honorable Committee gave that order so that the parties can amicably settle their dispute,” the senators said.
“This Honorable Committee had intended to de-escalate the conflict so as not to prejudice the parties and Philippine sports. By filing the arbitration case, Patafa practically and effectively closed any possibility of amicable settlement with Mr. Obiena,” they added.
Further, the senators said Patafa “escalated the conflict by giving Mr. Obiena another problem that will distract him from his training and consume his time, efforts, and resources.”
“Patafa even refused to endorse him, as our country’s sole representative in pole vault, in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games, and other international athletics competition. This works not only against Mr. Obiena but also against Philippine sports,” the senators said.
In a separate statement, Cayetano said the move to file an arbitration case in Switzerland was “an act of bad faith.”
“This is not the way you treat a national athlete, and an Olympian at that,” Cayetano said.
“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,” she added.
Cayetano added that Patafa’s “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,” Cayetano said.
Obiena, one of the top pole vaulters in the world, will not see action at the World Athletics Indoor Championships after Patafa refused to endorse him.
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