By Ernie Reyes
Pole vault Ernest John “EJ” Obiena (Photo from EJ’s Facebook page)
MANILA — Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports Christopher “Bong” Go expressed his dismay amid the dispute between the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) and national pole vaulter and Olympian Ernest John “EJ” Obiena which prevented the latter from participating in the World Athletics Indoor Championships to be held in Belgrade, Serbia this month.
Obiena qualified for the World Indoors after his gold-medal performance in the Orlen Cup in Poland last February. However, he has now missed the chance to compete thereafter PATAFA, with whom the pole vaulter has an ongoing rift, refused to endorse him.
“Nakakalungkot na dahil sa bangayan, nasayang ang pagkakataong mabigyan muli ng karangalan ang ating bansa sa larangan ng sports,” Go said in a statement issued on Sunday, March 13.
“What has now happened to our battle cry ‘We win as one’ if we could not even resolve issues as one and unite and support our athletes as one people, as one nation?” Go lamented.
Last February 7, Go led the joint hearing of the Senate Committees on Sports and Finance regarding the rift and encouraged Obiena and PATAFA to participate in the mediation process.
“Bilang Chair ng Senate Committee on Sports, nagpatawag na po tayo ng hearing noong February 7 kung saan nahimok natin ang PATAFA at si EJ Obiena na mag-usap at pumayag na lumahok muli sa mediation process. Inatasan natin ang Philippine Sports Commission para pangunahan ito bilang pagganap sa kanilang mandato,” the senator noted.
“Dahil ongoing pa ang mediation process, patuloy akong nananawagan sa PSC at sa dalawang panig na magusap at bilisan ang pagresolba ng gusot na ito. Ang kooperasyon ninyo ang kailangan para maayos ang lahat for the sake of our country. Magkaisa po tayo at sana ay walang pulitika sa sports,” he stressed.
Continuing his statement, Go emphasized the need for unity among relevant agencies and organizations to avoid similar conflicts in the future and to better promote the welfare of Filipino athletes.
“Ayusin na ang dapat ayusin. Gawin ninyo ang tama, isantabi ang pansariling interes, at resolbahin ang mga hindi pagkakaunawaan. Maging magandang ehemplo po sana kayo sa inyong salita at gawa dahil maraming mga Pilipino ang tumitingala sa inyo,” Go stressed.
“Umaasa ang buong sambayanan na magiging maganda ang kahihinatnan ng usapang ito para na rin sa kapakanan ng susunod na henerasyon ng mga atleta,” he ended.
Acknowledging the hardships that athletes have to endure to bring pride to the country, Go also vowed to remain steadfast in supporting initiatives that would boost the country’s sports development programs.
The senator earlier authored and co-sponsored Republic Act No. 11470, establishing the National Academy of Sports (NAS) at the New Clark City Sports Complex in Capas, Tarlac to provide education and training for young aspiring athletes.