Legal Q&As Regarding PATAFA versus EJ Obiena

by: Mickey Ingles (originally posted on Spin.ph)

WITH PATAFA threatening to bring down the hammer on celebrated Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena in its latest press statement, it’s just right that we have a brief Q&A on the legal issues on the latest developments.

For a refresher on what went down today, read Spin.ph’s news report here. To catch up on the entire timeline of the controversy, tap here.

What is PATAFA anyway?

The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association, Inc. or PATAFA is the national governing body for athletics in the Philippines. It’s the national sports association or national federation for athletics. It is the duly accredited national sports association (NSA) of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and a member of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF). 

What is the IAAF?

The IAAF is the international federation that governs world athletics. The IAAF is the sole competent international authority for the sport of athletics worldwide and is recognized as such by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In short, the IAAF is the big boss for world athletics. (After a name change in 2019, IAAF is now known as World Athletics, though the acronym is still widely in use.)

How do you become a member of PATAFA?

Under Section 1 of its By-laws, membership is open to any individual, sports association, sports club, private or public school and LGU, as long as these are approved by the majority of the Board of Trustees of PATAFA.

Individual members of PATAFA, such as EJ, must be Filipino citizens, of legal age, of good moral character, and possess all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications as may be promulgated by Patafa’s Board.

Can Patafa remove EJ Obiena from the national training pool?

In theory, it can. Under Section 12 of its By-laws, PATAFA may suspend, expel, and terminate its members, in accordance with the rules and regulations of PATAFA. (What these rules and regulations are, I can’t tell for sure as I don’t have access to them.) But the By-laws require a 1/3 vote of all the members of PATAFA to suspend a member and 2/3 vote to remove a member altogether.

EJ Obiena is a member of PATAFA. I assume that PATAFA means to remove EJ as a member when its Administrative Committee recommended that “EJ Obiena be dropped from the National Training Pool of Athletes of PATAFA effective immediately.”

In its press statement, PATAFA found that EJ violated the IAAF Integrity Code of Conduct, specifically the tenet of honesty as he is alleged to have forged documents and contracts pertaining to monetary payments to his coach.

What happens if EJ Obiena is removed from the national training pool?

If PATAFA strips him of his membership, EJ will be unable to participate in international competitions sanctioned by the IAAF.

Under the IAAF’s Requirements to Compete in International Competitions, no athlete may take part in an international competition unless they are a member or affiliated to an IAAF Member. Further, competitions are restricted to athletes who are under the jurisdiction of an IAAF Member.

Finally, athletes who have been provisionally suspended or declared ineligible under the rules of his or her member federations are also ineligible to join international competitions, as long as these rules are consistent with the IAAF’s.

PATAFA is a World Athletics Member. Hence, EJ Obiena must either be a member or affiliated to Patafa in order to join IAAF-sanctioned international competitions.

What are examples of IAAF-sanctioned international competitions?

The Olympics, for one. The Golden Roof Challenge, where EJ Obiena set the Asian Record of 5.93m, is also sanctioned by the federation.

So, if Patafa does remove EJ from its list of members, EJ Obiena will not be representing the Philippines in Paris 2024.

Assuming Patafa does remove EJ, can he participate as a neutral athlete in Paris 2024, similar to how Russian athletes participated in the last Olympics?

It’s unlikely, as the rules of IAAF on neutral athletes only pertain to athletes whose national federations have been suspended by the IAAF. As PATAFA has not been suspended by the IAAF, it seems the rules on neutral athletes do not apply to EJ Obiena.

What’s the next step for EJ Obiena?

Patafa’s By-laws do not explicitly state its dispute resolution mechanism for eligibility issues. 

However, as the PATAFA is an IAAF Member, PATAFA must likewise abide by the rules of the IAAF. And under the IAAF Rules on Disputes and Disciplinary Proceedings, disputes between athletes and their national federations must be submitted to an impartial and fair hearing body, with the rights of the athlete respected at all times.

PATAFA has, however, stated in its press statement that the necessary investigations were conducted by its Administrative Committee who then submitted its Fact-Finding Report to the Board. The POC and the Philippine Sports Commission have also been both involved trying to resolve the matter. 

Whether these three bodies were considered the “impartial and fair hearing body” is unclear.

I imagine EJ’s legal team will be looking for an avenue to raise the issue to the IAAF.

What’s the next step for PATAFA?

Aside from the recommendations outlined in their press statement, PATAFA may likewise file a case with the IAAF Disciplinary Tribunal against EJ Obiena. The IAAF Disciplinary Tribunal has jurisdiction over any alleged Non-Doping Violations such as violations of the IAAF Integrity Code of Conduct — which PATAFA referred to in its forgery accusations against EJ.

Decisions of the IAAF Disciplinary Tribunal may be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Can EJ Obiena be jailed for all of this?

In PATAFA’s press statement, it was recommended that a criminal complaint of estafa be filed against EJ Obiena. Estafa is a crime under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. For cases of estafa amounting to P360,000 (which is the amount mentioned in the press statement), the corresponding penalty is jail time of 4 months and 1 day to 2 years and 4 months.

Of course, this will have to go through the process of filing a complaint and acquiring jurisdiction over EJ through an arrest, which may be difficult given that he is currently training abroad.

Mickey Ingles is the editor-in-chief of Batas Sportiva. If you are a law student interested in sports law, join the ILC Cup! Details here!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Carmelo Gaite says:

    That as an athlete, he was required to undergo psychological
    evaluation by a sports psychologist to determine his mental fitness in
    preparation for the rigorous demands of the Olympic competition. For
    the said reason, he engaged the services of Sports Psychologist Dr.
    Sheryll M. Casuga. He learned from Dr. Casuga that Mr. Juico was
    pressuring her to disclose the details of his psychological assessment.
    Dr. Casuga declined as it is covered by the doctor-patient privilege and
    told Mr. Juico that the request was beyond what she could ethically
    disclose to any third party. She maintained that she could only provide
    him Mr. Obiena¶s training progress report. Instead of respecting Dr.
    Casuga¶s stance, she was insulted b\ Mr. Juico. Worse, Mr. Juico told
    her that they even falsified her previous reports to justify their
    payments to her. Dr. Casuga told him that she does not condone the
    falsification of her reports. Mr. Juico then threatened her that if she
    would not submit the requested report, she will not get paid.
    Mr. Obiena further alleged that in view of his failure to get what
    he wanted from Dr. Casuga; he received the wrath of Mr. Juico. Mr.
    Juico blamed and accused him of directly instructing Dr. Casuga not to
    disclose his psychological evaluation report. According to Mr. Obiena,
    he never gave her any such instruction and her refusal to share that
    information was all her decision.
    That as President of PATAFA, he expected more from him.
    Unfortunately, instead of supporting him as an athlete of the
    Federation, what Mr. Juico did was to continuously torment him. Mr.
    Juico would call him during his training, or even in the middle of the
    night when he was supposed to be recovering. Whenever he would
    return his call after his training, Mr. Juico would be furious and would
    remind him that he should pick up his calls all the time because he is
    the President of PATAFA. He would also demand that Mr. Obiena gave
    him a detailed daily report of all his activities. Instead of being an
    inspiration to his athletes, Mr. Juico just became a distraction.
    That apart from this, Mr. Juico had been unnecessarily badgering
    him with the sponsorships. He demanded that Mr. Obiena included him
    in all the negotiations and consult with him before he signs any
    contract. This was very apparent when Mr. Juico berated him for
    signing with Summit, Amino Vital and Puma without him on the
    negotiation table.
    That the most recent was when he received sponsorship from
    MVP Sports Foundation (MVPSF) for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As part
    of that sponsorship agreement, he was included in a social media post
    with all the other MVPSF supported Olympians. Mr. Juico confronted
    Mr. Obiena because he did not include him in the negotiation. He told
    him that he will not include Mr. Juico in any deal with sponsors that he
    will find for himself, but he will be more than happy to share a portion
    of his sponsorship with PATAFA that they can find for him. This made
    Mr. Juico very angry. It seems that more than anything, it is the
    financial aspect that he is interested in and not the welfare of his
    athletes.
    That Mr. Juico¶s rant did not end from his issues with Dr. Casuga
    and Mr. Obiena¶s sponsorships. This time, Mr. Juico maliciousl\
    accused him of squandering government funds intended for Coach
    Vitaly Petrov. Worse, he made this information public without giving
    him an opportunity to clarify this issue. Mr. Juico clearly acted in a vile,
    reckless, and malicious manner treating him like a criminal without any
    proper investigation.
    That he has already paid Coach Petrov a substantial part of his
    salary months before this entire issue was made known to the public.
    They knew that he already paid and has liquidated or reimbursed
    payments all the way from 2018. In fact, Coach Petrov confirmed that
    he received from Mr. Obiena Eighty-Five Thousand Euros
    (Eur85,000.00) representing his coaching fees. Clearly, Mr. Juico
    obviously just wanted Mr. Obiena off the national team and to destroy
    his good name.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s