PERSONA NON GRATA. The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Executive Board tackles the rift between athletics chief, Dr. Philip Ella Juico, and Olympic pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena during a meeting at the East Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Pasay City on Tuesday (Dec. 28, 2021). The board approved the recommendation of the POC ethics committee that declared Juico as persona non grata. (Photo courtesy of POC)

MANILA – The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Executive Board has approved the recommendation of its Ethics Committee that declared athletics chief, Dr. Philip Ella Juico, as persona non grata—an offshoot of Juico’s rift with Olympic pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena.

“The POC approved the recommendation of the Ethics Committee declaring Juico as persona non grata,” said POC president Abraham Tolentino after the POC Executive Board meeting at the East Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Pasay City on Tuesday. “We do not recognize him anymore as president of PATAFA [Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association] until the new election of its president.”

Tolentino said the PATAFA maintains the POC’s recognition as the national association for the sport despite the sanction on Juico.

He added that all of the association’s officers are also recognized by the POC.

The sanction stemmed from the Ethics Committee’s investigation that concluded that Juico “harassed” Obiena by making “malicious public accusations”.

The committee report said Obiena, a finalist at the Tokyo Olympics and Asian men’s record holder, was accused and maligned publicly by Juico in media in November for allegedly falsifying his liquidation report on his Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov’s salaries.

The report also said the accusations on Obiena insinuated theft. Rowing association president Patrick Gregorio heads the Ethics Committee.

Eleven of the 15-member POC Executive Board approved the committee recommendation, which will be ratified by the General Assembly in its January meeting.

POC honorary president Ricky Vargas, first vice president Al Panlilio, second vice president Richard Gomez, treasurer Cynthia Carrion-Norton, auditor Joaquin Loyzaga, and board members David Carter, Dr. Jose Raul Canlas, and Pearl Managuelod favored the recommendation, along with Athletes’ Commission head Nikko Huelgas and Secretary General Edwin Gastanes.

Charlie Ho of netball and International Olympic Committee Representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski abstained.

Tolentino did not vote as he presided over the meeting in the absence of chairperson Steve Hontiveros.

Juico is the second NSA official to be declared persona non grata after Go Teng Kok, who was also the PATAFA president when then POC chief Jose Cojuangco Jr. slapped the sanction in 2011.

The POC, Tolentino said, assured the 26-year-old Obiena that he will represent the country in various overseas competitions in 2022, including the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi in May and the 19th Asian Games in Huangzhou in September.

“If PATAFA won’t endorse him, which I doubt they would, then we will,” Tolentino said. (PR)