Ernest John Obiena is guaranteed to see action in both the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games this year despite his rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) that has lasted for months now.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino said that the Olympic pole vaulter is included in the appeals list, which is not included in the initial 584-athletes list of delegations bound for the SEA Games in Vietnam.
The appeals list, which is also called Group B, consists of 80 athletes from various national sports associations (NSAs).
Obiena is facing the threat of being expelled by PATAFA from the pool, but Tolentino reiterated that the POC has the authority to endorse athletes by citing one of the by-laws written under Rule No. 27 of the Olympic Charter.
“There is also a provision in the IOC charter, specifically Rule 27,” he told the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum webcast, Tuesday.
“Nakalagay po roon, the NOC is the sole authority who submits the delegation proposed by the NSA, whether NSA or what, of the final list on all Olympic, regional, continental, and all world tournaments patronized by the IOC.
“Not only based on sports merits,” he furthered, “but based on if the athlete will be an inspiration of the youth of that country. Parang ganon.”
Tolentino once again emphasized the POC’s utmost support to the reigning SEA Games men’s pole vault king, saying that he can be funded privately should he no longer receive any support from the government.
“This will be a test case. Ang tanong po rito sa NSA, if that athlete really has a big potential, will we not endorse it just because of this? You will deprive the country of having whatever medal,” he said.
Obiena and PATAFA have been in conflict since last year, and a resolution may still be far from taking place. Just yesterday, he formally withdrew from the mediation process led by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
Tolentino told the session presented by San Miguel Corporation, MILO, Amelie Hotel, Braska Restaurant, and PAGCOR with Prime Edge as its webcast partner that the second-generation athlete’s decision should be respected.
“Kung ‘yun ang kanyang pananaw, ‘yung statement niya kahapon, that’s it. Wala na po tayong magagawa roon,” he said.
The POC is set to hold its General Assembly this Wednesday, and among its agenda is the Obiena-PATAFA controversy.