Press Release
January 6, 2022

Bong Go calls on sports officials, athletics body to spare nat'l athletes from issues that they can help resolve: 'let athletes focus on bringing glory to the country'

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports Christopher "Bong" Go expressed his concern that instead of promoting the welfare of national athletes and helping them focus on their training for upcoming international competitions, they are being dragged into issues that should have been resolved amicably by sports officials and organizations tasked to fulfill such functions on behalf of these athletes.

"Trabaho ninyo na tulungan sila. Iresolba at ibigay mga pangangailangan nila. Pagaanin ang pinapasan nila. Hindi para ipitin at mas pahirapan pa sila!," Go remarked towards concerned officials and organizations mandated to help national athletes.

Go specifically expressed disappointment over the decision of the Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Association to drop pole vaulter and Tokyo Olympian Ernest John "EJ" Obiena from its National Training Pool of Athletes.

"Yung national athletes natin ang focus niyan ay magbigay ng panalo at dangal sa pamilya at sa bansa. Nagpapakahirap yan para maghanda at maging mahusay sa kanyang larangan," Go shared.

"Huwag natin ipaproblema sa kanila yung mga isyu na pwede naman pagtulungan ng mga opisyales, mga organisasyon, at mga propesyunal na inatasang suportahan ang Philippine team. Kaya nga nandito tayo para tulungan sila. Hindi para dagdagan pa ang iniisip nila," Go expressed.

On Tuesday, January 4, the PATAFA announced its intent to file a criminal complaint for estafa against the world's number six pole-vaulter for alleged non-payment of coaching fees to his coach, Vitaly Petrov, and falsification of liquidation documents. The move has been widely criticized by national athletics bodies and the public alike.

PATAFA also terminated the services of and is set to file a complaint against Petrov for allegedly violating the World Athletics Integrity Code of Conduct as well as declare Obiena's adviser James Lafferty a persona non grata.

"I am disappointed that these issues are taking the attention away from the support and praise that should be given to world-class and promising pole vaulter EJ Obiena," Go expressed.

As the country's pride, he has the weight of a whole nation on his shoulders. The least we can do is unburden him with these issues," Go said.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, Go emphasized that he has seen the struggles and difficulties athletes have to endure especially amid an ongoing pandemic.

Unless the matter is resolved, Go warned that the Senate would launch an investigation to determine whether or not there were lapses on the part of the government or the athletics body.

"I urge PATAFA, POC (Philippine Olympic Committee) and PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) to resolve the matter as soon as possible. Otherwise, I will be compelled to call for a legislative inquiry to find out if there are lapses and excesses on their part," vowed the senator.

In an earlier statement, the PSC urged PATAFA to reconsider its decision to drop the athlete. It had previously offered to serve as mediator between the two sides. The POC, in turn, declared PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico persona non grata and called for the election of a new president last December 28.

"Ito yung panahon sana na ibinibigay natin ang buong suporta sa ating mga atletang itinuturing din natin bilang mga bagong bayani. Sa kabila ng kasalukuyang pandemya at iba't ibang krisis na ating pilit malampasan, inaasahan nating makapagbigay sana ng inspirasyon sila sa ating mga mamamayan," continued Go.

"Pero, imbes na suklian natin ng pasasalamat, naiipit sila dahil sa bagay na dapat internal na inaayos at hindi kailangang humantong sa tanggalan sa pambansang kupunan," he said.

Meanwhile, as part of his vision of supporting promising young athletes who do not have the resources to pursue their dreams, Go earlier authored and co-sponsored the National Academy of Sports bill in the Senate which was enacted into Republic Act No. 11470 in 2020. The measure establishes the NAS System and its Main Campus in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac.

The NAS is a government-run academy that offers quality secondary education with a special curriculum on sports for gifted young Filipinos.

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