Why no jurisdiction?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

In 2011, the POC declared then-PATAFA president Go Teng Kok “persona non grata,” disqualifying him from attending any POC-related function or activity although retaining his position as a virtual lameduck. GTK had previously filed a case against POC for removing him as president of another NSA, the Philippine Karatedo Federation. Eventually, GTK gave up the fight and threw his support for Philip Juico to succeed him as PATAFA president.

A few days ago, the POC did the same thing to Juico after the Executive Board approved the recommendation of the Ethics Commission to declare the PATAFA head as “persona non grata” based on the charges filed by pole vaulter EJ Obiena to the Athletes Commission. It was the Athletes Commission that endorsed Obiena’s complaints to the Ethics Commission. Juico formed his own investigating body made up of PATAFA Board members to look into Obiena’s accusations while PSC attempted to mediate the row but couldn’t get the opposing parties to agree to a settlement under its supervision.

According to a reliable source, the Ethics Commission chaired by Philippine Rowing Association president Patrick Gregorio recently held a three-hour zoom hearing to listen to both Obiena and Juico. The three-man Ethics Commission is composed of Gregorio, Philippine Tournament Bridge Association secretary-general Gerry Alquiros and Philippine Sailing Association president Judes Echauz with POC secretary-general Edwin Gastanes as ex-officio member. Echauz inhibited himself from the deliberations for personal reasons. Juico and some members of the PATAFA Board joined the zoom meeting but right off the bat, said they would not recognize the Commission’s jurisdiction. However, they asked if they could attend the meeting as observers. Gregorio put his foot down and said if they refused to recognize the Commission’s jurisdiction, they had no business attending the meeting. Juico and his group then left the meeting. It appeared that Juico would rather recognize the “impartiality” of his own appointed PATAFA investigating committee.

Gregorio went on with the meeting as Obiena aired his complaints. In a report later submitted by the Commission, it said “the complaints stemmed from the incident report that Mr. Obiena filed before the Athletes Commission for acts of harassment possibly attempting to collude with coaches to create untruthful statements and forcing psychologist to break doctor-patient confidentiality allegedly committed by Mr. Juico.” Obiena also said Juico berated him for signing sponsorship contracts with Summit, Amino Vital, Puma and the MVP Sports Foundation without consulting him.

Obiena said Juico sent him a demand letter requiring him to pay back PATAFA for salaries he received to pay coach Vitaliy Petrov. The demand backfired when Petrov issued a statement confirming he had been paid even more than what was due. A second letter was sent asking Obiena why he should not be removed from the national pool because of falsifying liquidation documents. But Obiena explained that he was instructed by PATAFA to ask Petrov to sign receipts of salaries even without actual payment because it was the only way to be reimbursed by PSC. With Obiena’s explanations, it became irrelevant for any kind of mediation as there was no basis for any misdoing.

Obiena hasn’t received any financial support from PSC or PATAFA since last August and he’s now on his own in training camp in Formia, Italy. His next event is scheduled on Jan. 28 and World Athletics is inviting him to compete in five tournaments before the SEA Games in May. Obiena said PATAFA clearance is required for him to represent the country but with Juico in hot water with the POC, it’s unlikely he’ll back down. “If PATAFA won’t endorse him, which I doubt they will, then we will,” said POC president Cong. Bambol Tolentino.

This issue between Obiena and Juico should never have escalated into this level of discord. Juico insists he’s teaching Obiena a moral lesson of integrity, honesty and character, claiming there was wrongdoing on his part. Obiena vows he did no wrong and has proof to show his innocence. How this mess of a personal squabble has been ventilated before a global audience is unthinkable. Public opinion is clearly on Obiena’s side and the deeper Juico digs into the trenches to fight a senseless battle, the more difficult it is for him to get out of the hole. Refusing to recognize the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction is an act of insubordination, considering PATAFA is an NSA that is part of the POC’s family. In the spirit of Christmas unity, let’s pray for sobriety and hope our sports officials realize their reason of existence is to serve the country and its athletes, nothing else.


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