EJ Obiena to Senate: ‘I want my name cleared’
MANILA, Philippines — “I want my name cleared.”
This was what pole vaulter EJ Obiena told senators on Monday as the Senate sports and finance committees looked into the rift between the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) and the Tokyo Olympian.
During the hearing, Obiena and his mother, Jeanette, explained how the controversy has affected their family.
“In my humble opinion, there was 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 pole vaulter said.
“Even those people who are not my relatives but have the surname Obiena will be branded in public as embezzlers,” he added.
In November last year, Obiena was accused of falsifying liquidation documents and was ordered to return 85,000 euros (over P4.8 million) in financial help intended for the salary of his Ukrainian coach Vitaliy Petrov.
Patafa also wanted Obiena to prove that his coach was being paid on time for his salaries dating back to May 2018.
However, the Filipino pole vaulter had denied that he failed to release the salary of Petrov for the services he rendered from early 2018 onward.
Petrov himself also disputed Patafa’s accusations.
Obiena’s mother, Jeanette, said they were “shocked and hurt” by the allegations against her son.
“Diyan sa social media, napakarami pong nagko-comment. Meron pa nga pong nag-comment na masakit. At bilang magulang po napakasakit po namin na sabihin na ang anak namin pinalaki namin ng hindi tama, kaya daw po ganito ang nangyari sa kanya,” she told senators.
(On social media, there were a lot of comments, hurtful ones. And as a parent, it hurts to be told that we did not raise our child right that’s why he turned out that way.)
“Nagkataon din po nung unang-unang pumutok po ito sa social media, kabang kaba po ako kasi nagiisa si EJ doon. Lalo na sa gabi, kasi siya lang po mag-isa sa apartment niya. Hindi ko po maisip yung iniisip ni EJ dahil baka po may gawin siya. Siya lang mag-isa,” she added.
(At the time, when this issue broke out on social media, I was really nervous because he was alone in his apartment. I don’t know what EJ is thinking, he may do something to himself.)
Obiena, the world number five, has been holed up in Italy where he’s training for the last several years.
Jeanette said she would always have her phone open and would immediately pick up calls if it’s from her son.
“Dahil kahit papaano, dun man lang, masamahan at sabihan payuhan ko yung anak ko sa mga nangyayari [Because that way, at least I can be with him and advise him about what is happening],” she added.
She added her husband has been having breakdowns over the issue and is availing sessions with a psychologist to help him handle the situation.
“Apektado ang kalusugan niya, di na po makaayos ng trabaho dahil po naiisip kung ano po ang magiging kinabukasan ng anak ko sa pagkasira po ng pangalan niya sa labas, hindi lang po local, international pa po,” she said.
(His health is affected, his work is affected because he is just thinking about his son’s future and how his name has been tainted locally and even internationally.)
According to his mother, Obiena has sacrificed his studies to train and give honor to the Philippines.
“Hindi pa po tapos si EJ sa pagaaral, isang taon at kalahati pa po ang kailangan niya para matapos ang degree niya, sinakripisyo po niya yan para po makapasok at matupad po ang kanyang pangarap na makapagbigay ng honor sa ating bansa,” she said.
(EJ has yet to finish his studies, he still has one and a half year left for him to finish his degree, he sacrificed this to achieve his dream of giving honor to our country.)
She and her husband are also concerned about Obiena’s sister.
“At yung isa pa po yung anak ko, yung anak ko pong babae na napagusapan po namin dahil Obiena rin po ang apelyido. Bago pa lang po silang gumagawa ng landas nila at tahak nila sa buhay, pero dahil sa nangayayari pong ito, apektado po sila ng mga kapangalan at ka-apelyido namin,” she added.
(And my other child, we have talked about our daughter because she is also affected. Before she can form her own path in life, because of what is happening, she is affected just because of her surname.)
For the part of Patafa, its president, Philip Juico, said he has also been at the receiving end of insults since the controversy began.
“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 also said that Obiena’s alleged failure to pay his coach was only brought to his attention and he felt it was his duty to look into it.
“This is nothing personal,” the Patafa president said.