Patafa keeps Obiena in national pool—for now; forwards documents to PSC, COA for scrutiny | Inquirer Sports
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DEFUSING TENSION

Patafa keeps Obiena in national pool—for now; forwards documents to PSC, COA for scrutiny

/ 05:20 AM January 07, 2022
EJ Obiena was valiant in the pole vault finals, but failed to truly mount a challenge and finishing in 11th spot.

Things are expected to quiet down with the EJ Obiena saga as the Patafa heeded—for now—the PSC’s demand to keep the Olympian in the national pool. —REUTERS

The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) has decided to heed the demands of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), deferring its decision to boot out Ernest John Obiena from the national team for at least two weeks.

Patafa chair Rufus Rodriguez, who represents the second district of Cagayan de Oro City in Congress, said in a letter on Thursday the federation will not implement the recommendation of its fact-finding committee last Dec. 29, “in deference to the comment made by Malacañang and due respect to the PSC.”

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The Patafa has also said it will keep a tight lip on the issue and an Inquirer source has revealed that the federation has already submitted documents to the PSC and to the Commission of Audit (COA) that purportedly show that the star pole vaulter and Tokyo Olympian liquidated government financial aid claiming he had paid his coach years before he actually did.

In an earlier statement, Obiena has also said his team will now focus on the charges being brought up by his mother federation.

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“I am relieved that I now finally know what I am being charged with,” Obiena wrote in a Facebook post two days ago. “From the very start, the PATAFA proceeding had the look and feel of a witch hunt. My legal team can now go about the business of clearing my name and my family’s name. Righteousness always wins in the end.”

Until Jan. 13

While the Patafa move, which will keep Obiena still in the national pool until at least Jan. 13, deescalates tension that had been rising as athletes and sports officials began taking different sides of the controversy’s divide, a source said the PSC and COA are expected to pore through documents submitted by the athletics federation.

The documents, the Inquirer source said, purportedly show that Obiena did liquidate public funds meant for his Ukrainian coach, Vitaly Petrov, in 2018 and 2019 despite having paid the legendary pole vault star maker in full only in November last year.

“Those papers are with the PSC already and with COA and both can begin looking at them,” said the source, who refused to be identified in deference to the ceasefire on public statements ordered by the PSC.

Obiena is now in Formia, Italy, preparing for the start of the season under the watchful eye of Petrov, who the federation had previously sacked as part of its coaching roster.

The PSC on Wednesday issued statement to Obiena, Patafa and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to stand down and settle the issue amicably after the controversy drew a line between the athlete and his federation, with other national athletes, sports legends and officials taking a side in the issue.

Fight for Obiena

The POC, led by its president, Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, has taken the side of Obiena and declared Patafa president Philip Ella Juico as persona non grata.

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Tolentino has also vowed to fight for Obiena’s right to compete in international competitions and has pledged to seek financial aid for the athlete.

At least four national sports associations (NSAs) had officials saying Tolentino will face a steep climb in getting Obiena to compete in major international meets without sanction from Patafa. NSA officials have also taken sides on the issue, with some saying the POC should not have penalized Juico and others agreeing on the decision.

Athletes commission chief Nikko Huelgas also backed the decision of the POC to reprimand Juico, saying the body went through the standards by collating the paperwork and sending them over to its ethics committee, which handled Obiena’s complaint against Juico.

“That’s the standard process when an athlete files for a complaint [against] his or her NSA,” said Huelgas. “I think it shows how us athletes, our voices, are finally being heard and the POC is doing something about it.”

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TAGS: EJ Obiena, national pool, Olympian, Patafa
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