MANILA – Pole vault star Ernest John “EJ” Obiena said he and Coach Vitaly Petrov are ready to face the charges slapped by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) on them.
In a press conference on Tuesday, the PATAFA said it is set to file estafa raps against Obiena and charges related to World Athletics’ Integrity Code of Conduct against Petrov before the governing body.
“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 said in a statement late Tuesday night about his looming lawsuit.
“I am ready for everything that Philip Juico and the PATAFA will throw at me as their intention now is finally clear: they want me out of the Philippine Team and they don’t want me to jump for the Philippines.”
Obiena said he has already informed his foreign coach of the PATAFA’s plans to file charges against him in the World Athletics Federation.
“He is unperturbed by this. He is a good man and has treated me like his own son. I am sorry that he is being dragged into this,” he added.
Obiena also lashed out at the PATAFA’s decision to declare his mentor, Jim Lafferty, as persona non grata.
“Jim is a sports patriot for the Philippines and has been helping Filipino athletes for more than 15 years,” he said. “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 also denied that he does not want a mediation process to happen between him and the PATAFA.
Obiena refuted accusations of him ducking away from mediation after the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) dropped the idea last week and even claimed that he quickly said “yes” to it.
“I have been accused of refusing to undergo mediation. This is farthest from the truth. When (PSC) Chairman (Butch) Ramirez called me in November to bring up the offer, I immediately said that I am open to it,” he said.
“But the events following that discussion, particularly PATAFA and/or Philip Juico’s actions during the PATAFA Committee, the POC (Philippine Olympic Committee) Ethics Committee and House Committee hearings clearly gave me the impression that I will not be treated fairly by PATAFA. I communicated this to Chairman Butch again just prior to Christmas, only a few days before he withdrew the PSC offer for mediation.”
Obiena noted that the allegations of him not wanting to undergo mediation probably stemmed from his previous statement on Christmas Eve when he said, “I honestly don’t see what is left to mediate.”
Although he said in his Christmas message that he was the first to say “yes” to the mediation, which he reiterated in his latest statement, Obiena first wanted the POC to finish its findings regarding the PATAFA-Obiena row and have the liquidation of his payments be made public before he undergoes mediation.
Meanwhile, he thanked the POC for its assurance that he remains a part of the national team despite his beef with PATAFA.
POC chief Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said earlier in the day he would push for Obiena’s inclusion in the national team this year even without PATAFA’s endorsement.
“I thank the POC for doing what is right for the nation and as the National Olympic Committee,” Obiena said.
Obiena, Asian pole vault record holder, said he would now focus on his training as he prepares for the 2022 pole vaulting season beginning next month.
“I will leave everything now to my legal team,” he said. “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.” (PNA)