AN ugly self-inflicted loss, no thanks to sports politics.

/ 14 March 2022

This was how Sen. Panfilo Lacson described the exclusion of international pole vaulter Ernest John ‘EJ’ Obiena from the World Indoor Championships.

“EJ Obiena: a case of missed opportunity because of sports politics. Sayang,” Lacson said.

Obiena’s exclusion stemmed from his non-endorsement by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), with which he has a rift.

“Unacceptable! We just threw away a golden opportunity to showcase our world-class talent – all because we cannot get our acts together,” Lacson said.

“I am sure we Filipinos can accept losing in a fair competition. What we cannot accept is being denied the opportunity to compete in the first place,” he added.

Lacson likened the plight of Obiena to local homegrown scientists who go abroad and thrive there because they did not get the much-needed support at home.

“We have so many homegrown talents, whether they be in science and technology or sports. But we simply don’t maximize their talents and instead allow them to go abroad. When they succeed there, we can only feel regret for not supporting them earlier,” he said.

On Saturday, Obiena lamented his non-inclusion in the international meet all because PATAFA did not endorse him. 

He said he is in prime physical and mental condition and is ready to be the first Philippine HOME-GROWN athlete to compete in the Worlds – yet ended up being the only top-ranked vaulter not participating.

Lacson said it is time that Philippine sports authorities draw up a mechanism to make national sports associations like the PATAFA accountable and answerable for failing to develop homegrown talents.

“So much taxpayers’ money goes to our sports bodies to do one job: make sure we develop our athletes and give them the opportunity to represent us especially in international competitions. Clearly something went wrong in EJ’s case and we Filipinos are sadly paying the price,” he said.

“We dropped the ball in EJ’s case. The least we can do now is to make sure this does not happen again,” he added.