Juico speaks out

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

PATAFA president Philip Juico insists its a moral issue facing Italy-based pole vaulter EJ Obiena because if the five-man investigating committee determines that values were violated and laws were broken, the stain will tarnish his character forever. The committee was created by PATAFA to bring out the facts of the case. Obiena is suspected of malversation, falsifying liquidation documents, defrauding government and qualified theft but hasnt been given his day in court. In short, no due process so far. Whether the fact-finding committee will be impartial is doubtful as it couldnt be an independent body since the team was formed by PATAFA, the accuser.

Juico is leaving it to the committee to establish culpability. “Id like to defer to them to respect their prerogative and credibility,” he says. “Im just here to ensure that sports and athletics are used for the good and to help transform and bring out the best in the Filipino youth.” In a statement, PATAFA said the intent was to conduct the investigation privately but somehow, it leaked to media.

Apparently, the crux of the matter is whether Obienas Ukrainian coach Vitaliy Petrov was paid on time as the athlete claimed in liquidation reports that salaries were turned over from May 2018 to August 2021. “Records revealed that Obiena had settled obligations with Petrov only this month and not during the months that he had officially reported,” said PATAFA. “These payments, late as they were, were made in tranches through banks based in Dubai, Germany and Manila.” A source said the dates of the payments were last Nov. 4, 5 and 9.

Juico says there is a document signed by World Athletics vice president, IOC member and Ukrainian Olympic Committee president Sergeii Bubka, dated last Oct. 22, that Petrov had not been paid his salary in full. In the document, Bubka referred to a three-way phone conversation among Juico, Petrov and himself to get to the bottom of the mess. Petrov later issued his own statement that he had no complaints and “I do not understand what this federation is doing and what good comes out of destroying a fine young manit sets the Philippine track and field program back and this is a shame.”

Juico says it appears that “Obiena falsified liquidation reports to show he had been turning over PATAFA and PSC funds for the last four years complete with dramatic one-liners lapped up by media that he wasnt getting enough support.” He adds that “when Obiena gets wind of an investigation promoted by real statements from real people, he makes payments four years later from different locationshe says he paid Petrov but what happens to those earlier claims of payment backed up by his so-called reports? Are they falsified documents? If they are, he has committed many counts of falsification and malversation.”

There is talk that with Obiena crying foul over the allegations, more PATAFA athletes are expected to come forward and reveal their own stories. POC Athletes Commission chairman Nikko Huelgas said the POC will provide Obiena a lawyer and assistance from the POC Safesport TWG which was recently created to prevent harassment and abuse in sports. Is the row between PATAFA and Obiena personal? Is PATAFA asserting its authority to muzzle Obiena who is outspoken and exercised his prerogative to sign commercial deals without PATAFAs concurrence? Is this a problem that can be resolved by men who are transparent? In the spirit of Christmas, can there please be peace between PATAFA and Obiena?

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