Though saddened by the charges brought to him by the Philippine Athletic Track and Field Association, EJ Obiena felt relief as well.
After months of wondering what case was going to be dropped on him by PATAFA – ranging from failure to liquidate government funds to allegations of embezzlement – the 26-year-old pole vaulter is set to be charged by the national sports agency with a case of estafa.
And Obiena is ready to face the music.
“I am saddened by the decision of the PATAFA committee and their recommendations but I am not really surprised,” he said. ” I am relieved that I now finally know what I am being charged with. From the very start, the PATAFA proceeding had the look and feel of a witch hunt. My legal team can now go about the business of clearing my name and my family’s name.
“Righteousness always wins in the end.”
In a press conference held on Tuesday, PATAFA chief Popoy Juico announced the ouster of Obiena from the national team.
EJ’s mom is also set to face a count of estafa.
“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.
“I have said before that the only reason I will not jump for the Philippines is if Philip Juico won’t let me jump for the country. This afternoon, the POC made a statement that I will still carry the flag of the Philippines and represent the country. I thank the POC for doing what is right for the nation and as the National Olympic Committee,” he said.
“On the recommendation of filing of ESTAFA, I am ready to face all cases and charges filed against me in any court or forum. I am hopeful that I will have my fair day in court and that I can finally end this baseless witch hunt,” he continued.
On Petrov and Lafferty
Also ousted by PATAFA were Obiena’s head coach Vitaly Petrov and NSA booster Jim Lafferty.
Obiena had already talked to both gentlemen and are unperturbed by it.
“On the complaint against my coach, I have already informed Coach Vitaly Petrov of the plans of PATAFA to file charges against him in the World Athletics Federation. He is unperturbed by this,” he said. ” He is a good man and has treated me like his own son. I am sorry that he is being dragged into this. Philip Juico, in Petrov’s own words, tricked him to issue statements to build a case against me.
“When PATAFA’s claim of my non-payment of the entire amount of Petrov’s fees was refuted by proof of payment from Petrov coupled with his withdrawal of his earlier statements supporting PATAFA’s case against me, PATAFA now goes around and files a case against Petrov.
“On Mr. Lafferty being declared as Persona Non-Grata, Jim is a sports patriot for the Philippines and has been helping Filipino athletes for more than 15 years. He has spent millions of his own money to help our athletes without asking or receiving anything in return. He has done so much for the Philippines, the Filipino athlete, and even for the PATAFA; and instead of giving him a pat on the back, he is now being rewarded by declaring him a persona non-grata. This is so senseless,” he expressed.
Continuing to Soar
Despite the trying times, he has figured in over the past few months, Obiena will continue to compete in the sport that he loves.
Currently ranked as the sixth-best pole vaulter in the world, the product of University of Santo Tomas vows to continue improving.
More importantly, he is not turning his back on his country.
“I will leave everything now to my legal team,” he said. “ I will focus on training and jumping. My season will start in less than a month. The drama brought about by this witch hunt has taken valuable time, effort, and energy away from my training and preparation.
“I have a small window to save my season and I do not want to be distracted any further by Philip Juico and the PATAFA. They have done enough damage already and I will be at fault if I allow them to cause further harm,” he continued. “I will clear my name in court and I will clear my name in the competition. My pole will be my platform. My every jump is my defiance to everything that is wrong in the sport. And an affirmation that the Filipino is tough, enduring, loyal, and will stand up for what is right and true.
“I do not jump for Mr. Philip Ella Juico or the PATAFA. I jump for my beloved nation. Ako ay atletang Pilipino. Tumatalon ako para sa Pilipinas at sa lahat ng aking kababayan.”