EJ Obiena says 'no desire to change nations' despite Patafa rift, multiple passport offers | Inquirer Sports
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EJ Obiena says ‘no desire to change nations’ despite Patafa rift, multiple passport offers

By: - Reporter / @MarkGiongcoINQ
/ 02:48 PM November 30, 2021
EJ Obiena pole vault sea games

Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena during the 30th Southeast Asian Games. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/ INQUIRER

MANILA, Philippines—Pole vault star EJ Obiena remains committed to representing the Philippines amid his ugly rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) and despite receiving lucrative offers from other countries.

Obiena reaffirmed his allegiance to the Philippines but also made it clear that the ongoing issue with Patafa may force him “into choices I don’t want to make.”

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“Even now, in this current crisis, I have no desire to change nations. I see these statements on social media and active encouragement to switch allegiances. But this is not who I am and why I do this. I want to win for Philippines and show the world what we can do. I want to win for us,” Obiena, who is being accused of falsifying his liquidation documents by Patafa, said in a statement late Monday.

“I have realized I may at some point have no option. I cannot accept to be accused of false allegations and have my reputation smeared. I know I may at some point be forced into choices I don’t want to make. It seems to be happening a lot lately like defending myself in a rushed presscon. But my goal is focused on winning gold medals for my nation, my country, my flag—The Philippines.”

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The 26-year-old Obiena, who has been training extensively in Italy for the past several years, said he turned down offers from other nations even before the controversy with Patafa.

“My dear friend and mentor James Michael Lafferty spoke with Gretchen Ho several days ago and confirmed I have several offers from other nations to compete under their flag. This is a fact. It is also true I have been approached several years ago already by other nations, floating lucrative pay packages to compete for their flag,” he said.

“Mr. Lafferty and I always agreed loyalty matters. I therefore said ‘no’ several years ago. I love my country. I am proud to compete for the flag of the Philippines. I get chills every time I hear our anthem played and to watch that flag rise high.”

Obiena, the Asian record holder, is among the fast-rising stars in the spot. He is currently No. 6 in the world rankings.

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His promising career, however, is in limbo due to the row with Patafa as he threatens to retire unless he clears his name from the federation’s grave allegation.

“Speaking of loyalty, this is the foundation of my strong defense of these allegations. When one values loyalty, one cannot comprehend how my own “mother organization” turned on me, never consulted with me, never asked me any questions, never gave me the benefit of the doubt. That’s not loyalty. Again, at least not how I define it,” Obiena wrote.

“I am fighting to bring honor and glory for my country. Others fight for ego, or power. But that’s not me. I fight for higher principles. Loyalty is a virtue. And loyalty still matters.”

In an earlier statement, the Tokyo Olympian said he has sought the help of a legal counsel “to represent me in all current and future investigations including the filing of any possible and appropriate civil, criminal, and administrative actions.”

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