By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Olympian and Asian record holder EJ Obiena can no longer represent the Philippines in the near future – small or big tournaments.
This came after the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) administrative committee recommended that the pole vault superstar be expelled from the Philippine team for misappropriating government funds amounting to P3.6 million.
In a press conference yesterday, the committee revealed the list of its recommendations following its own investigation on the Tokyo Games veteran over falsified liquidation documents he made in the payments of the services rendered by his foreign coach.
In another twist to what seems to be a “telenovela” among the warring parties, the committee is also set to file a criminal complaint of estafa against Obiena despite the expected harsh public backlash.
Based on the copy of the report forwarded to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Commission on Audit, the committee concluded that “Obiena misappropriated the amount of 61,026.80 euros (around P3.6 million) 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 and Jeanette Obiena misappropriated the amount of P624,116.76 she claimed from the PSC under pretext that it is a reimbursement of the coaching fee paid to Mr. Petrov for the months of January to March 2019.”
Jeanette Obiena, mother of EJ, was the Patafa auditor.
It will also file a complaint against Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov before World Athletics for “violation of the Integrity Code of Conduct.” It also recommended that his services will be terminated.
It also recommended that Obiena’s consultant, Jim Lafferty, be declared as persona non grata.
“The recommendations had just been made public today, so we will have to sit down and work out the mechanics and the procedures. People will have to be notified, arrangements have to be made, so it is not an instant thing that we can do,” Patafa Philip Juico said.
“Filing of cases will require documentation and all sorts of things, so we have to abide by all of this. It will soon be implemented.”
In a detailed report released to the media, the committee showed the signed statements of Petrov dated Oct. 4 and 7 saying that he has not received his coaching fees from 2018 to 2021.
It also showed the detailed amount of funds released to Obiena by Patafa and PSC from 2018 to 2020 including bank receipts, as well as the timeline of events beginning Nov. 12, 2021 where Juico called for an emergency board meeting.
The meeting was to inform the board that Juico received communications from Sergey Bubka, Vice President of World Athletics and President of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, as well as Petrov on the alleged non-payment of coaching fees.
Juico said Patafa has exhausted all efforts to settle the matter with Obiena and even agreed to the PSC’s offer of mediation.
“But he chose to go elsewhere,” Juico said.
Obiena has maintained his innocence in the matter, arguing that it was a form of harassment. Obiena said he has elevated his case to the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Obiena is currently ranked No. 6 in the world and the only Asian to make it to the Tokyo Olympics that saw him finish in joint 11th place.