By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Majority of the members of the Philippine track and field pool, including coaches, expressed their support to the officials of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) in light of the group’s 90-day suspension by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
Among those who signed the memorandum of support were 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalists Aries Toledo, Melvin Calano, Christine Hallasgo and Sarah Dequinan.
Overall, there were 27 athletes, including 15 SEAG medalists and 11 coaches who affixed their signatures, backing the Patafa’s leadership amid the association’s ongoing rift with world-class pole vaulter EJ Obiena.
“Sana hindi kalimutan na kami din ay atleta ng bayan at ang nakararami, at kami ay ang direktang apektado ng mga desisyon na ito,” the athletes’ statement read.
“Subalit sa lahat ng pagsubok na hinaharap ng aming federation na Patafa, kami ay mananatiling focused sa aming training upang makapagbigay ng aming pinakamagandang performance sa mga nalalapit na kompetisyon.”
Other SEAG medalists who signed were Harry Diones, Anfernee Lopena, Clinton Bautista, Francis Medina, Edgardo Alejan Jr., Michael Del Prado, Frederick Ramirez, Joyme Sequita and Janry Ubas and Jessel Lumapas.
The remaining athletes were Bejoy Bernalyn, Daniela Daynata, Melissa Escoton, Edwin Giron, Junel Gobotia, Josefa Ligmayo, Ronnie Malipay, John Albert Mantua, Eloisa Medina, Jelly Paragile, Richard Salano and Jerald Zabala.
The coaches, who wrote a separate statement, said they were devastated with the POC’s decision to suspend Patafa but vowed they would still continue supporting the training and competition of the athletes amid the situation.
Among the coaches are Eduardo Buenavista, Jeoffrey Chua, Dario De Rosas, Jobert Delicano, John Philip Duenas, Arniel Ferrera, Danilo Fresnido, Sean Guevarra, John Lozada, Julius Nierras and George Posadas.
POC suspended Patafa for “failing to serve their purpose as an NSA particularly its dedication and commitment toward the development of the sport, promoting the ideals of the Olympic Movement and the spirit of sportsmanship.”
This stemmed from Patafa’s non-endorsement of Obiena in time for the world indoor championships, as it would be against their rules that the pole vaulter must finish the mediation process first before getting endorsed.
Patafa has also not included Obiena in its roster for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May.
The suspension will be ratified by the POC General Assembly during its regular meeting on March 30. If ratified, Patafa, along with Philta which was also suspended, will not have any authority over their national teams to the SEAG.
The suspensions will also give the POC direct supervision over Philta and Patafa’s national athletes, coaches and sporting officials, while financial matters will be under the control of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).