EJ Obiena tells Senate: ‘I want to be reinstated as a national athlete’

Published February 7, 2022, 7:38 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena on Monday told the Senate that all he wanted is to be able to clear his name and be reinstated as a national athlete.

“What I really just want is to be reinstated as a national athlete; to be able to represent the Philippines,” Obiena told the Senate Committee on Sports which is looking into the rift between him and the Philippine Athleetics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).

The Tokyo Olympian’s appeal came about after senators grilled PATAFA on why it hoisted accusations he falsified his liquidation documents and ordered to return over P4.8-million of funds intended to pay for the salary of his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.

PATAFA had earlier accused Obiena of failing to pay his coach on time for the services he rendered starting from 2018, a matter which Obiena and Petrov had denied.

Responding to Sen. Francis Tolentino’s questions, Obiena further said he also hopes he would be able to handle his liquidation and training funds under a better system.

“…That it would not go through me, as I proposed to PATAFA last August,” he said.

Asked if he is open to a reconciliation with his national sports association (NSA), Obiena said yes, but he finds it important to be able “to clear my name.”

“My only concern with reconciliation with the current administration is that they are supposed to take care of the athletes but on Nov. 13, in a text message, they wanted this out in the public. They wanted this out without any investigation done, out in the public. That is my main concern as the breach of trust in my confidence that this will never happen again in the rest of my career in representing the Philippines. That I would be judged without due process and judged guitly before any investigation is done,” Obiena said.

“That is my concern. I am more than willing to reconcile my only worry is how sure am I that this kind of things that happened now will never happen again under the same committee, same adminsitratin, that have perseecuted me and wanted this out in public,” he pointed out.

“It is affecting me and my preparations and I truly believe that is all I would be needing to be able to continue po,” he reiterated.

Obiena said he believes, there was really an intent to “paint me as an embezzler publicly.”

“This is my main issue and I want my name cleared because I am publicly accused and that has damaged not just me, but my parents, my siblings, and my cousins,” the athlete said.

“Even those people who are not my relatives but have the surname Obiena will be branded in public as embezzlers,” he lamented.

Last January, PATAFA recommended dropping Obiena from its national training pool following its probe into his alleged misuse of funds.

The NSA also recommended filing a complaint against Petrov and Obiena’s adviser, James Lafferty, as persona non-grata.

But during the Senate hearing, PATAFA president Philip Juico claimed he has also been at the receiving end of insults since the controversy on Obiena started.

“We got insulted for it…if we’re talking about the insults, listen to the insults that I personally receive. And what do you think this has caused my family?” Juico said.

“You know you get into this thing, there’s bound to be something like this unless we talk things over. Pero hindi e, bumira kaagad dun sa media, saying I demand an apology so how do we start talking?” he added.

Juico insisted also insisted he was only obliged to look into allegations of his failure to pay his coach when the matter was brought to his attention.

“It was my duty to look into it. This is nothing personal,” Juico told the committee.