For the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa), the EJ Obiena issue is finally over.
The Patafa board of trustees yesterday announced that it is formally moving on from the controversy that had already escalated into a national issue that greatly hurt Philippine sports.
Patafa chairman Rufus Rodriguez and president Philip Ella Juico were the signatories in the one-page statement that says the federation’s willingness to move forward and focus its attention on other national athletes who will see action in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
Patafa emerged as the most successful federation during the country’s hosting of the 30th SEA Games in 2019 with 11 gold medals.
“Patafa, therefore, chooses to move on,” the federation said.
“There’s so much work to be done and attention that needs to be given to our more than 50 athletes, coaches and other stakeholders. All of them need to be given the same proportionate opportunities provided to an exclusive circle.”
The decision to “move on” also signals the end of Obiena’s stay with Patafa.
According to Rodriguez and Juico, they are no longer inclined to endorse Obiena in major international events like the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and the Olympics.
He was also no longer included in the final lineup of athletes for 2022 endorsed by Patafa to the Philippine Sports Commission. Instead, the federation will just tap decathlete Janry Ubas to compete in the men’s pole vault event while grooming other young vaulters to take Obiena’s spot.
With this, Obiena will no longer enjoy the perks and other privileges that the PSC accords to members of the national team, especially the monthly subsidy that will cover his expenses in his expensive Italian training.
But it won’t be a major problem.
In a previous statement, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said they are willing to endorse Obiena should Patafa formally drop him from the national roster.
He even cited a specific provision in the International Olympic Committee by-laws, saying that the National Olympic Committee has the final say in the composition of the national delegation.
Patafa said being dropped from the national squad is something that Obiena chose to do.
“With respect to Mr. Ernest John Obiena, he has chosen to remove himself from the jurisdiction of the Patafa,” the federation said.
“He decided to align, work with and avail himself of total support purportedly guaranteed by his patrons, agents and political backers. They are now expected to support his training, maintenance, medical needs and compliance with requirements of tournament organizers.”
The federation reiterated that it reached out to the 26-year-old Olympian not just once through the mediation effort brokered by the PSC.
“We tried to talk to him and settle the issue with him three times and made ourselves available for the PSC’s mediation efforts,” the Patafa said.
“But he spurned all these efforts even saying that we were entering the mediation in bad faith. He took a different path, preferring to do things his way which we respect.”
Still, Obiena is not yet off the hook from the criminal charges that the federation will file against him. He is also still liable to whatever findings that will come out from the auditing being done by the Commission on Audit and the PSC.
“Even as Patafa considers this Obiena case closed, with the CoA doing a special audit, the Patafa is constrained by law and policies to pursue legal options as identified by the committee that investigated the allegations against him,” the federation said.
“This responsibility falls on his shoulders.”
“We wish Mr. Obiena Godspeed and success in his endeavors.”