POC chief vows to fight for EJ Obiena
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) came to the defense of EJ Obiena amid the embattled pole vault star’s rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field (Patafa).
Obiena is facing expulsion from the national team upon recommendation by Patafa’s investigative committee over misappropriated funds. A criminal case of estafa is also set to be filed by Patafa against the Tokyo Olympian.
POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, however, reaffirmed his support for Obiena and called Patafa’s move a “vengeful act.”
“I expected EJ will be dropped from the national team by his NSA as a vengeful act,” Tolentino said in a statement Tuesday. :The action of Mr. Juico in removing EJ Obiena from the National Pool is an expected result of his exposé. A vengeful act that shuts down the chances of the Philippines from its Olympic dream.”
“We in the POC will make sure EJ will be in Hanoi and Huangzhou and in all other major world competitions, we’ll fight for EJ.”
Obiena, who owns the Asian record at 5.93m, will be the favorite to win the gold in the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi and the Asian Games in Hangzhou later this year.
Tolentino vowed the POC will do whatever it takes so that Obiena can get there and still represent the Philippines on the international stage.
“The NSA has the right to recommend or not, endorse or not, its athletes for international competitions, but there’s a provision in the IOC Charter allowing NOCs to endorse athletes,” he said.
Tolentino added the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will play a significant role with regard to the matter.
“The ball is now with the PSC, will the PSC allow EJ to be stricken off from the national team? Will the government allow a world-class athlete to be out of the national team?” he said. “Being the Asian record holder, No. 6 in the world and No. 3 best performer in 2021, will the PSC allow one gold medal to be lost in Huangzhou long before the Asian Games?”
“Will the PSC turn its back on this mandate? I don’t think so. This is precisely why the PSC is created. To act as the final caretaker of athletes when an oppressive NSA is apparently shutting its doors to world class athletes.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.