POC ratifies ‘persona non grata’ tag on PATAFA chief

By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno

January 26, 2022, 7:19 pm

MANILA – The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) has ratified in the general assembly level its executive board's decision last month to declare Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president Philip Ella “Popoy” Juico "persona non grata".

A majority vote went in favor of slapping Juico with the said tag as the tension between PATAFA and world no. 6 pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena continues to heat up.

Out of 54 members who attended the general assembly on Wednesday either virtually or physically in Tagaytay, 36 voted yes to the ratification, including three members of the POC Athlete's Commission namely Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, multi-titled triathlete Nikko Huelgas, and champion swimmer Jessie Lacuna.

As expected, Juico, who was in attendance and explained his side of the rift to the GA, voted “no” even as representatives from wushu, weightlifting, squash, and hockey also moved to reject the ratification.

"He was given a chance to speak. In-explain niya yung side niya, kaya lang bakit hindi niya in-explain sa (He explained his side, but why did he not explain it in the) ethics committee?" POC chief Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said in the online press conference right after the GA.

Weightlifting chief Monico Puentevella publicly said two weeks ago that he wants the POC to recall the tag on Juico.

Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, the Philippine representative to the International Olympic Committee, abstained from the vote along with representatives from netball and dancesport.

Ten other attendees failed to cast a vote, but Tolentino said at least four of them wanted to vote but missed the cut-off.

"There were four more voters who want to vote in favor. Hindi na namin hinabol (We did not include)," Tolentino said.

He clarified that he has no hard feelings on Juico upon ratifying the persona non grata tag on him.

"It's just I'm following the procedure," Tolentino said.

He said PATAFA can still send a representative to the POC GA, either the vice president or secretary-general, with Juico essentially prohibited from attending.

Tolentino added that although a two-thirds vote has been met, a simple majority would have been enough since the GA is not voting for the ouster of Juico as PATAFA chief.


Later in the day, Juico accused the POC of already screwing him up even before the GA, which was initially scheduled for Jan. 12 but was pushed to this Wednesday due to a spike in coronavirus disease 2019 cases, began.

"POC claimed that a pre-circulated resolution was signed by 36 POC members who affixed their signatures without any resolution having presented during the General Assembly for voting and neither I nor several other POC members received this resolution as the same resolution to be voted on during the General Assembly. The POC Notice dated January 3, 2022, clearly stated that 'the matter will be reported and taken up during the Regular General Assembly scheduled on 12 January 2022,' which was rescheduled today. Nothing was taken up. The POC did not give any opportunity for the General Assembly to verify this 36-member pre-approved resolution," Juico said in a statement.

He said: "The process was railroaded. There was no due process because there was no division of the house."

Juico added that the POC GA's decision to call him persona non grata will not stop PATAFA from seeking the truth that could put its row with Obiena to an end.

"I may now be persona non grata in the eyes of the POC, but this will not distract us in our quest for truth, accountability, transparency, and justice in our federation," Juico said. "If this is the price I have to pay for holding my athlete accountable, so be it. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I will step out of the POC with my head held high." (PNA)