By Diana Mae Salonoy


Olympic bronze medalist Eumir Marcial joined the growing list of personalities who have shown their support to EJ Obiena amid the  controversial decision of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) to drop the latter on the national athletes pool.

In a Facebook post, the Olympic boxer said that he's standing beside Obiena while calling the PATAFA decision "an invalidation of the efforts and sacrifices that EJ has made for our country." 

"I feel that it is only right as a fellow athlete and Olympian that I express my support and collectively ask to show our solidarity with EJ," stated Marcial in the post.

Obiena on Tuesday was expelled from the national pool after the PATAFA board report found him allegedly mishandling his compensation of funds. The board, headed by Philip Juico, is also set to file a criminal complaint of estafa against Obiena alongside his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.

"Masakit ito para sa kapwa atleta. Hindi pa lamang nag sisimula ang Tokyo Olympics ipinakita na ni EJ ang kanyang supporta sa akin na kahit alam ko na mayroon din siyang problema. Ngayon ako naman ang susuporta sayo," added Marcial, who was previously pitted against the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) over issues of financial assistance before his Tokyo Olympic stint.

"This unfortunate situation has affected his focus in his training costing him so much of his time, energy, and resources instead of pouring all his attention to his upcoming tournaments," Marcial added.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Chairman Bambol Tolentino earlier expressed his support to Obiena and vowed to fight for the athlete. 

"This is precisely why the PSC is created; to act as the final caretaker of athletes when an oppressive NSA is apparently shutting it's doors to world-class athletes," said Tolentino via One Sports, who also promised to make sure Obiena will appear in the Asian and Southeast Asian Games.

Obiena, earlier in a statement, expressed his willingness to bring the said issue to court, and leave everything to his legal team as he prepares for his upcoming competitions.
"I will clear my name in court and in competition. My pole will be my platform. My every jump is my defiance to everything that is wrong in the sport," Obiena said on his Facebook page.

"I do not jump for Mr. Philip Ella Juico or the PATAFA. I jump for my beloved nation," he added.

The PATAFA decision stirred controversial reactions from athletes to sports personalities. Obiena previously found support in the POC alongside Senator Pia Cayetano, while a manifesto consisting of veteran track and field athletes, including Elma Muros-Posadas, backed the PATAFA committee and Juico.

In an open letter, 26 national athletes and 11 coaches signed as an expression of support to the PATAFA board, while athletics' greats Hector Begeo, Isidro Del Prado, and Muros-Posadas sided with Juico in a separate statement.

"Sinusuportahan namin ang imbestigasyon kung paano ginamit ang pera dahil responsibilidad nating alagaan ang buwis ng bawat Pilipino," stated in the open letter via ABS-CBN News.

The day before the PATAFA decision, Obiena was hailed as the third-ranked pole vaulter in the world according to the World Athletics ranking.