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PBA PARTY-LIST: GIVE ATHLETES ADMIN SUPPORT STAFF

The Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list said the issue over EJ Obiena’s supposed non-payment of his coach would not have happened in the first place if only the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) assigned a dedicated support team to help Obiena with financial, administrative, and logistical matters.

“Having administrative staff support should be the norm for our athletes and coaches, and in the case of EJ Obiena, PATAFA should have taken care of this. It boggles the mind why he was left to take care of payroll and other financial matters when what he should have been doing was concentrating on his training,” PBA Party-list Atty. Migs Nograles said.

According to a report from the Inquirer, PATAFA insiders said the association could not pay Obiena’s coaches directly because the Covid-19 pandemic struck as it was preparing to take over the payroll of Team Obiena.

“And now PATAFA is using the pandemic as an excuse for why they couldn’t take over payroll duties for EJ. Hindi naman siguro kailangang lumipad para bayaran nang personal si Coach Vitaly Petrov para maging palusot ang pandemya?” she added.

According to a report from the Inquirer, PATAFA insiders said the association could not pay Obiena’s coaches directly because the Covid-19 pandemic struck as it was preparing to take over the payroll of Team Obiena.

Obiena has already requested that for his Paris Olympics preparations, PATAFA directly pay his team “to avoid unnecessary banking fees and streamline payment procedure and liquidation.”

“Not only is having to take care of administrative matters a burden to our athletes, it is also causing unnecessary distractions, taking their focus away from their training,” Nograles said.

The Davaoeña lawyer also slammed PATAFA for failing to get Obiena’s side first before writing the athlete to reprimand him and ordering him to return the €85,000 given to him to pay for coaching fees.

“This issue wouldn’t have been blown out of proportion if only PATAFA took the time to listen to EJ’s side first before firing off these very serious allegations. Pinaniwalaan pa agad ‘yong hindi naman directly involved sa issue kaysa sarili nilang atleta,” she said.

“If EJ Obiena becomes another Wesley So, PATAFA has only itself to blame. We hope that this issue is resolved at the soonest possible time and that PATAFA has learned its lesson.”

Citing multiple knowledgeable sources, the same Inquirer report said the controversy started when PATAFA president Philip Juico spoke to World Athletics official Sergey Bubka a month after the Olympics ended. It was Bubka who “casually told Juico” about Obiena’s alleged money problems.

“If EJ Obiena becomes another Wesley So, PATAFA has only itself to blame. We hope that this issue is resolved at the soonest possible time and that PATAFA has learned its lesson,” Nograles said.

So, who, at 14 became the ninth youngest chess Grandmaster in history, decided to play for the United States after he grew disillusioned with politics in the Philippine sports bodies, culminating in an incident in 2013 where he, in his own words, got caught in the middle of a feud between “the kings of the sports bodies.” He became a US citizen in February this year, officially completing his break from the Philippines and ending the hopes of those who had wished to see him play for the Philippine flag again. 

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