MANILA, Philippines – Embattled pole vaulter EJ Obiena has removed himself from the jurisdiction of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), the organization claimed on Friday, January 28.
PATAFA, through a statement written by president Philip Juico and chairman Rufus Rodriguez, said it is moving on from its rift with Obiena, who declined the mediation offer of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
“He decided to align, work with, and avail himself of total support purportedly guaranteed by his patrons, agents, and political backers,” the statement read.
“They are expected to support his training, maintenance, medical needs, and compliance with requirements of tournament organizers.”
PATAFA agreed to mediation by the PSC, but Obiena – the Asian record holder – turned it down, believing the national athletics association is attempting to “silence” him and “keep the truth hidden.”
“He took a different path, preferring to do things his way which we will respect,” Juico and Rodriguez wrote.
Still, PATAFA may pursue legal action against Obiena as he undergoes a special audit by the Commission on Audit (COA) over alleged discrepancies in the liquidation of the salary paid to his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.
PATAFA earlier recommended filing a criminal complaint of estafa against Obiena over 6,000 euros (around P360,000), the amount allotted for the coaching fees of Petrov from May 2018 to August 2018.
“Even as PATAFA consider this Obiena case closed, with the COA doing a special audit, the PATAFA is constrained by law and policies to pursue legal options as identified by the committee which investigated the allegations against him.”
“This responsibility falls on our shoulders. We wish Mr. Obiena Godspeed and success in his endeavors.”
Juico and Rodriguez said now is the time for PATAFA to shift its focus back on its athletes, who are gearing up for the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China later this year.
“There is so much work to be done and attention that needs to be given to our more than 50 athletes, coaches, and other stakeholders,” the statement read.
“All of them need to be given the same proportionate opportunities provided to an exclusive circle.”
Obiena is slated to make his season debut in the ISTAF Indoor in Berlin, Germany on February 4 after he pulled out from the Init Indoor Meeting in Karlsruhe on January 28.