MANILA – Senator Christopher “Bong” Go called on sports officials to promote the welfare of national athletes and let them focus on their training, instead of dragging them into issues that should be resolved amicably by sports officials.
“Trabaho ninyo na tulungan sila. Iresolba at ibigay mga pangangailangan nila. Pagaanin ang pinapasan nila. Hindi para ipitin at mas pahirapan pa sila! (It’s your job to help to help them. Resolve and provide their needs. Lessen their burden and not to accost and make life hard for them),” Go said in a news release on Thursday.
Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, expressed disappointment over the decision of the Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Association (PATAFA) to drop pole vaulter and Tokyo Olympian Ernest John “EJ” Obiena from the national training pool.
“Yung national athletes natin ang focus niyan ay magbigay ng panalo at dangal sa pamilya at sa bansa. Nagpapakahirap yan para maghanda at maging mahusay sa kanyang larangan (The focus of our athletes is to win and bring glory for their family and our country. They work hard to excel in their sports,” Go said.
“Huwag natin ipaproblema sa kanila yung mga isyu na pwede naman pagtulungan ng mga opisyales, mga organisasyon, at mga propesyunal na inatasang suportahan ang Philippine team. Kaya nga nandito tayo para tulungan sila. Hindi para dagdagan pa ang iniisip nila (Don’t let them resolve issues that can be resolved by the officials, organization, and professionals tasked to support our Philippine team. We are here to help them, not to give them problem),” he added.
On Tuesday, the PATAFA announced its plan to file estafa charges against Obiena over alleged non-payment of coaching fees to his coach, Vitaly Petrov, and falsification of liquidation documents. The move has been widely criticized by national athletics bodies and the public alike.
PATAFA also terminated the services of Petrov and is set to file a complaint against the foreign coach for allegedly violating the World Athletics Integrity Code of Conduct. The association also declared Obiena’s adviser James Lafferty a persona non grata.
“I am disappointed that these issues are taking the attention away from the support and praise that should be given to world-class and promising pole vaulter EJ Obiena,” Go said. “As the country’s pride, he has the weight of a whole nation on his shoulders. The least we can do is unburden him with these issues.”
As chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, Go said he has seen the struggles and difficulties the athletes have to endure especially amid an ongoing pandemic.
Unless the matter is resolved, Go warned that the Senate would launch an investigation to determine whether there were lapses on the part of the government or the athletics body.
“I urge PATAFA, POC (Philippine Olympic Committee) and PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) to resolve the matter as soon as possible. Otherwise, I will be compelled to call for a legislative inquiry to find out if there are lapses and excesses on their part,” Go said.
In an earlier statement, the PSC urged PATAFA to reconsider its decision to drop the athlete. It had previously offered to serve as mediator between the two sides.
The POC, in turn, declared PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico persona non grata and called for the election of a new president last Dec. 28.
As part of his vision of supporting promising young athletes who do not have the resources to pursue their dreams, Go earlier authored and co-sponsored the National Academy of Sports bill which was enacted into Republic Act No. 11470 in 2020.
The measure establishes the NAS System with the sprawling New Clark City, Capas, Tarlas as its main campus. (PR)