Obiena-Patafa rift over, world No. 5 free to defend SEA Games crown in May
Pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) have buried the hatchet and are ready to move forward from their rift.
That means Obiena can go back to focusing on representing the Philippines—on the horizon is his Southeast Asian (SEA) Games title defense in May—and the Patafa can proceed focusing on its programs without having to deal with sanctions from the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), which spearheaded a mediation process aimed at brokering peace between Obiena and his national federation, announced on Wednesday that the two parties have finally reached a resolution.
“Mr. Obiena has expressed his apologies to PATAFA, its board members, Mr. [Patafa president Philip] Juico and his teammates and both (Obiena and Patafa) have both assured each other of forgiveness, to start anew and move on,” the PSC said in a statement.
The Patafa lit the wick of the controversy when it accused Obiena of misappropriating training funds and filing false financial reports related to the salary of his coach, Vitaly Petrov. The world No. 5 fired back at the Patafa, denying the allegations and copping only to falling behind in his payments to Petrov.
Obiena had said any resolution to the conflict would have to involve the Patafa withdrawing—and apologizing for—its accusations. The Patafa, meanwhile, had insisted that it was “bent on asking Obiena if he had paid Petrov on time, as he had claimed in various liquidation reports he submitted to the association.”
Obiena’s liquidation papers were forwarded to the Commission on Audit (COA) for scrutiny. Nothing had come out of the COA probe and it is likely that whatever state auditors found will be kept under wraps. The PSC statement said that “All information discussed and disclosed in said mediation is confidential as agreed by all parties.”
Obiena could not be reached at press time while Juico did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The statement said that the Patafa also agreed to “endorse Mr. Obiena to the 2022 Southeast Asian Games and the 2022 World Outdoor Athletics” and that “endorsement for participation of Mr. Obiena to other competitions will be subject to the usual rules and regulations of the Patafa, as observed for the participation of all national athletes.”
The PSC statement came after the POC general assembly (GA) deferred formalizing the suspension of the Patafa, a decision reached after positive developments from the mediation table.
“In the spirit of sportsmanship and because of the Lenten season, I deferred the move to suspend the Patafa as decided by the POC Executive Board,’’ said POC president Rep. Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino.
“And because of the unfinished mediation procedure between the Patafa and EJ Obiena, a vote to suspend the athletics federation wasn’t offered to the GA (POC general assembly),’’ added Tolentino after the hybrid GA held at Knights Templar Hotel in Tagaytay City.
The announcement came after PSC chair William Ramirez, the lead mediator, had said that talks between Obiena and Juico had been going on smoothly.
The POC executive board initially decided to suspend the local athletics body for 90 days over its rift with Obiena.
The Asian record holder had already missed the chance for a trailblazing participation in the world indoor championships in Belgrade, Serbia, early this month.
Meanwhile, the POC GA brought the ax down on the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta), upholding its executive board’s decision to suspend Philta for 90 days after failing to comply with the directive of the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
A total of 42 national sports associations out of the 55 voting members ratified Philta’s suspension triggered by its noncompliance to an ITF instruction to amend the association’s charter and hold an inclusive election of officers.
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