By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima underscored the need to craft appropriate measures to avoid rift and misunderstanding between national athletes and the body governing athletics sports and ensure that the former receive the proper support that they need.
De Lima filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 955 urging Congress to determine the events and circumstances that led to the standoff between pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) to prevent similar events from happening in the future involving nationally-funded athletes.
“National athletes are a source of national pride. Whenever they compete and excel, they become beacons of hope and inspiration to hundreds of millions of Filipinos to never give up on their dreams,” she said.
“While there seems to be no other option but to let the investigation play itself out, the [Philippine Sports Commission (PSC)] should review its guidelines and procedures to ensure that these types of incidents are altogether avoided for the sake of our national athletes,” she added.
Last Nov. 21, PATAFA ordered Obiena, Asian record holder and fifth-ranked in the world, to return €85,000 (P4.8 million) because of the allegation that he purportedly “falsified the liquidations submitted to the PATAFA and failed to pay the coaching fees of Vitaly Petrov” – an accusation that both Obiena and Petrov denied.
Petrov, who insisted that he never filed a complaint against Obiena, maintained that he was paid his full salary of roughly P4.8 million, admitting that the pole vaulter sometimes paid him late and in irregular tranches but it was due to the late remittance from PATAFA.
To date, both the PATAFA and the Philippine Olympic Committee have ordered separate probes into the matter.