By Mark Angelo Mañez
Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) has recommended the expulsion of pole vaulter Ernest John ‘EJ’ Obiena on complaints of falsifying liquidation documents and late payment to Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov, Tuesday.

This, among the six recommendations coming straight from PATAFA’s investigative body, would also include filing estafa complaints over EUR 6,000 (PHP 360,000) which represented Petrov’s coaching fees and claimed they weren’t turned over from May to August 2018.

Obiena was found out to have misappropriated EUR 61,026.80 (PHP 3,661,608) released by the PATAFA and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) as payment for Petrov’s coaching fees as of August 2021.

Obiena, currently ranked sixth in the world also holds the Asian record and was the only Asian to have qualified in the finals in last year’s Tokyo Olympics, where he settled for 11th.

On Monday, he snared third rank overall in the World Athletics pole vault ranking, along with American Sam Kendricks and Russia’s Timur Morgunov who all vaulted identical 5.93 meter heights.

“The report brought so much sadness and feelings of betrayal. But we have to face the challenge because we should account for all the funds, government and private, given we have a responsibility over showing of all moral, ethical considerations,” stated PATAFA chief Philip Juico via Rappler.

Obiena’s mother and former PATAFA auditor Jeanette was also found to have misappropriated PHP 624,116.76 from the PSC, claiming under the pretext of reimbursement of Petrov’s coaching fee paid from January to March 2019.

“So the board has accepted all the recommendations of the Administrative Committee that includes removing the 26-year-old young man, who knew the consequences of what he was doing as he repeatedly produced those curious documents.”

The NSA also made intentions of filing a complaint before World Athletics against the legendary Ukranian coach in violation of its Integrity Code of Conduct. 

PATAFA also declared longtime Obiena adviser James Lafferty persona non grata as well.
The Investigative Committee’s report have been sent to both the PSC and the Commission on Audit (COA) on Tuesday.

POC fires counter shots, vows extensive support

Meanwhile, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino extensively expressed his support on the embattled pole vaulter and decried PATAFA’s act of controversially expelling Obiena as ‘vengeful’.
PHOTO: Yahoo! News
“We in the POC will make sure EJ will be in Hanoi [SEA Games] and Hangzhou [Asian Games], and in all other major world competitions. We’ll fight for EJ,” Tolentino stated in a statement. “I expected EJ [would] be dropped from the national team by his NSA as a vengeful act.”

Both Obiena and Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov repeatedly denied PATAFA’s allegations since Nivember of the previous year.

“The action of Mr. [Philip] Juico in removing EJ Obiena from the national pool is an expected result of his exposé. A vengeful act that shuts down the chances of the Philippines from its Olympic dream,” he continued.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Juico said that the board has accepted all the recommendations of the Administrative Committee that included removing the 26-year-old young man, who already knew the consequences of what he did repeatedly producing the documents.

The POC, which already declared Juico persona non grata, further declared in a statement that it will “support athletes in achieving their [Olympic] dreams” and placed ball on the move to the Philippine Sports Commission in taking further action.

“Will the PSC allow EJ to be stricken off from the national team? Will the government allow a world-class athlete to be out of the national team?” asked Tolentino.

“Will the PSC turn its back on this mandate? I don’t think so,” he continued. “This is precisely why the PSC is created, to act as the final caretaker of athletes when an oppressive NSA (national sports association) is apparently shutting its doors to world-class athletes.”
All hope is not lost with regards to Obiena’s competition status as Tolentino further pointed out.

“Of course, the NSA has the right to recommend or not, endorse or not, its athletes for international competitions, but there’s a provision in the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Charter allowing NOCs (National Olympic Committees) to endorse athletes,” he said.

Tolentino continued, “In the absence of an endorsement from a national federation, the organizer or host owns a prerogative to embattled members – the IOC allows refugee athletes to compete in major international competitions.”

Both PSC and Obiena have yet to release their respective statements in the wake of these recent developments.