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Senate reconsiders PSC budget amid EJ Obiena-PATAFA row

The Senate is now aware of the row between PATAFA and EJ Obiena, and the legislators made the PSC bear the grunt. Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--The friction between EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association has already reached the Senate.

And the Philippine Sports Commission has been heavily affected by the senators' intervention.

Late Monday night, the upper legislative chamber moved to put the PSC's budget for 2022 on hold due to the drama surrounding Obiena and his national sports association.

Senator Pia Cayetano, who proposed the motion for reconsideration, called out the PSC for its decision not to quickly intervene in the brewing tension between Obiena and PATAFA, which is based on allegations that Obiena has not properly liquidated the supposed salary for his coach Vitaly Petrov.

"PSC took a hands-off approach. Sabi lang nila, 'Work it out.' How can you do that to your national athlete? Pakialaman mo naman. Bigyan mo naman ng halaga ang ating national athlete na inakusahan nila nang ganun lang," said Cayetano, a former national women's volleyball team member and triathlete.

She then stressed out a clause in the Philippine Sports Commission Act or Republic Act 6847 saying, "PSC is mandated to establish and maintain linkages with, among others, national sports organizations. Next, PSC has the power to exercise supervisory and visitorial powers over the NSA in connection with their sports promotion among others."

PSC chairman Butch Ramirez said on Sunday night that his agency will let Obiena and PATAFA resolve the matter among themselves first but will intervene "when it is appropriate."

[Related Story: PSC ready to intervene in EJ Obiena-PATAFA row 'when it is appropriate']

Meanwhile, Senator Migz Zubiri, also the president of the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, said that he understands the PSC's decision not to step in immediately since PEKAF, PATAFA, and the other NSAs have "complete autonomy" over how they govern the sports they represent.

"Usually, what we have is complete autonomy when it comes to the PSC, and the PSC only assists us on the budgeting, uniforms, venue, etc., pero wala talaga silang power over us," Zubiri said.

In spite of this, Zubiri supported Cayetano's motion to recall the PSC budget.

Senator Dick Gordon, a former member of the Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion, also jumped in to support Cayetano's motion, adding that what PATAFA did is embarrassing.

"The embarrassment of our own PATAFA making a very unjust statement which has been belied yesterday by the coach that they claimed was not paid. Nakakahiya naman yan. It's worse than China," Gordon said, comparing it to the drama surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, in which she filed sexual harassment complaints against an official of the leading political party there.

Gordon also believes Obiena is in no way a corrupt person.

"Sinasabi nation corrupt yung ating athlete? I think there has to be something done about this. It's got to be some breaks of right because they're out of control," Gordon further said.

Senator Joel Villanueva, who also supported Cayetano's motion, hopes that the PSC would step in as soon as possible to resolve the matter.

"I just hope and pray that our friends from the PSC would do something about this because not everyday in the history of this country na nagkaroon tayo ng kagaya ni EJ Obiena," Villanueva said in support of his fellow former UST Growling Tiger.

The PSC is asking a hefty amount of money ahead of a very busy 2022 which includes the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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