(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s Jan. 10, 2022 edition)
While I think it was unfortunate for Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy to be picked as the head of the Patafa (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association) committee tasked to investigate the EJ Obiena issue, but in hindsight, he was a perfect choice.
“It was a no-nonsense investigation. You know me Mike, I don’t have any vested interest or agenda,” Tiukinhoy told me.
Unfortunately, I do know the Cesafi commish and over the years we’ve been at loggerheads in this column and some unfortunate coaches have learned too late how by the book the commissioner is.
Because when you strip the EJ Obiena issue to its core, it’s simply about liquidating government money.
And here’s a couple of facts: Obiena has been receiving PSC money, channeled through Patafa since 2018, but his coach only received full payment in November of 2021.
Knowing that, raises some questions. When it comes to government money, COA (Commission on Audit) is very strict regarding liquidation and we all know that before you get another cent, you have to liquidate the ones you received. So how did Obiena account for the fund that was supposed to go to his coach in the previous years when he paid the coach in full only in November 2021?
Should the planned estafa case against Obiena push through, at least the Olympian will get a chance to answer the charge in the proper forum.
Because a public debate isn’t the proper forum.
It was a no-nonsense investigation. You know me Mike, I don’t have any vested interest or agendaFelix Tiukinhoy
And this raises another question. This all started when an internal memo to Obiena was leaked and what was supposed to be an internal matter between athlete and federation was made public. Nobody of course will admit to the leak and you can’t begrudge an enterprising reporter for doing his job and scoring a major scoop.
But as I first learned as a third-grader reading Hardy Boys, when you face a whodunnit, you ask, “Who benefits?”
Who benefited from the leak? Certainly not Patafa and Philip Ella Juico, who’ve been punched silly left and right since the issue was made public. Make no mistake, I have no love lost for Juico and if this issue ends with his resignation from Patafa, I see that as a positive development.
On the other hand, Obiena has certainly gained the sympathy of the country—and not a few politicians who know nothing about the issue but know a lot about grandstanding. I’m not accusing the athlete of making the issue public, but perhaps someone in his camp or a sympathizer saw an opportunity.
An opportunity that has taken some strange twists and turns and finally ended with the commissioner of Cebu’s collegiate league making the decisive call.
“We made the recommendation based on the evidence and the handbook of Patafa and World Athletics. Nagkamali lang sila pag appoint sa akin,” said Tiukinhoy.
What happens now? I’m still hopeful for a win-win situation, one that sees Obiena continue to jump for the country and the PSC, as it hopes, crafting new rules on funding that would avoid a similar situation.