Palace hopes Obiena, PATAFA ‘thresh out’ rift

Malacañang is hoping the rift between pole vault star Ernest John “EJ” Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) would eventually be resolved.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, made this statement after the PATAFA announced its decision to drop Obiena from the national team and file an estafa case against him.

“We continue to support all of our athletes, including our star pole vaulter EJ Obiena and we hope that whatever disagreements that he may have… between EJ and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association, hopefully they will all be threshed out for the allegations of fund misuse and other such allegations,” he said in a Palace press briefing.

He said the Palace will await further development on the issue as the ball is now with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Commission on Audit (COA).

“Documents, we have been told, have already been sent to the Philippine Sports Commission and the Commission on Audit, so let us await further development in that regard or if they will issue a statement on that matter,” he added.

On Tuesday, the PATAFA investigation committee recommended that Obiena be expelled from the national team “effective immediately”.

In addition, it is also set to file a criminal complaint of estafa against Obiena over EUR 6,000 (PHP360,000) meant for the salary of the Tokyo Olympian’s coach Vitaly Petrov from May 2018 to August 2018 which it claimed was not turned over.

PATAFA is also set to file a complaint against Petrov before the World Athletics for “violation of the Integrity Code of Conduct” and immediately terminate his role as the federation’s coach.

Obiena’s backer and adviser James Lafferty will also be declared as persona non grata by the federation.

The PATAFA said it is also set to submit a copy of its report to the PSC and COA.

In its report, the PATAFA said Obiena “misappropriated the amount of EUR 61,026 (PHP3,661,608 more or less) which were released to him by the Patafa/PSC as payment for coaching fee of Mr. Petrov but which were not paid as of August 2021.”

The report also said Obiena’s mother Jeanette, “misappropriated the amount of PHP624,116.76 she claimed from PSC under the pretext that it is a reimbursement of the coaching fee paid to Mr. Petrov for the months of January 2019 to March 2019.”

Obiena, for his part, said he will keep training to represent the Philippines in international competitions and is ready to face the charges slapped by the PATAFA.

“On my removal from the national pool, I am always willing to compete for the flag and the country I love with my entire being. On the recommendation of filing of estafa cases, I am ready to face all cases and charges filed against me in any court or forum,” he said in a statement.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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