EJ Obiena

EJ Obiena’s patron hits at ‘broken system’ in PATAFA row

Beatrice Go
EJ Obiena’s patron hits at ‘broken system’ in PATAFA row

FUNDING ISSUE. EJ Obiena goes through financially-demanding situations.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Businessman Jim Lafferty hires third-party auditors to help in the mediation between pole vault star EJ Obiena and PATAFA

The Philippine Sports Commission’s liquidation system is “broken.”

The third-party auditors hired to help mediate the financial issues between pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) raised this issue, said sports patron and businessman Jim Lafferty in the House committee meeting on Youth and Sports Development on Tuesday, December 14 .

“The system is broken on how liquidation is done. I have been the one who helped hire the third-party internal auditors. They are still doing their work. They are flabbergasted at the system that is put in place that would never be in place in any corporation,” said Obiena’s patron Lafferty, who hired three Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) from multinational accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“It basically forces athletes to front the money and then they only get reimbursed after a long period of time so it requires an athlete to have money to begin with. And when they don’t have money to begin with, [they] are in a constant system of managing cash flow.”

In the meeting, PATAFA showed Obiena’s disbursement schedule to prove the non-payment of fees to coach Vitaly Petrov from 2018 to 2020, but Lafferty countered that PATAFA’s payments to Obiena were late and paid in multiple trenches.

As an example, Lafferty used the Philippine Sports Commission’s board resolution No. 048-2019 issued on January 8, 2019 that stated that the P3.2 million budget for Obiena will cover his training expenses, including Petrov’s fees, from November 2018 to October 2019.

“The third payment comes at 1.2 million in October. It’s nine months later after the board resolution. I’m not blaming the PSC, I’m not blaming the PATAFA, I’m not blaming Dr. Juico, I’m simply saying we don’t pay him (Obiena) on time. So I mean, who’s really late here?” asked the American businessman.

“And there’s no guidance given on how this money is supposed to be dispersed and how it’s supposed to be done.”

According to Lafferty, who was tapped to be Obiena’s spokesperson, another major financial problem – aside from exchange and transfer fees – that Obiena encountered in July 2020 was when he suffered a back injury and needed to pay the doctor 8,000 euros (P450,000), forcing him to use whatever funds he had left to pay for the medical services upfront. Lafferty noted that the amount has not yet been reimbursed as of December 2021.

To liquidate emergency expenses, Lafferty explained that athletes are asked to submit acknowledgment receipts that served as liquidation forms.

As the mediation continues, both PricewaterhouseCoopers and the internal PATAFA committee handling the issue will send recommendations to PATAFA and the PSC in order to help fix the system.

Obiena was accused of embezzlement when PATAFA demanded him to return 85,000 euros (P4.8 million), which led the pole vaulter to take legal action against the national federation, who instigated an investigation on the matter.

The 26-year-old pole vaulter is the current Asian record holder and ranks No. 6 in the world. – Rappler.com

Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.