by: Kyrus Pampanga || Photo Credit: CNN Philippines
The fuss surrounding pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) has become a controversial matter in the world of Philippine sports.
The association’s investigation concluded Obiena’s expulsion from the national team alongside counts of estafa for allegedly falsifying his coach’s salary liquidation. However, Obiena later presented documents revealing that his coach, Vitaly Petrov, received full payment, despite it being late for 2018 to 2019.
“During the season, I believe my number one priority is to train and compete the best that I could po and liquidation come next po,” wrote Obiena in an email reply to PATAFA. “I am not an accountant. This is not a crime.”
At present, even with Obiena’s agreement to mediation (a step in resolving disputes between two parties through a neutral person in the negotiation), the question still stands: whether PATAFA would stick to its decision or finally sympathize with the pole vaulter’s situation.
Obiena being ranked No. 5 in the World presents a state of uncertainty for his future, which, in turn, would likely affect his current performance.
Aside from carrying the pressure to maintain his current world ranking, his rift with the association would be mentally exhausting for the pole vaulter. This unnecessary baggage to carry only causes Obiena’s focus to drift further from the sport.
Additionally, this incident concerning the government’s allocated funding and those in private regarding his training overseas yields terrible PR not only for PATAFA, but also for Obiena, given his position in the spotlight.
The worst-case scenario for Obiena’s current status would be either naturalization or competing for a foreign country in pole vaulting. Following his rise in the world rankings, Obiena has been pursued by multiple nations for seven years, and is now likely to be received.
With all these taken into account, this issue between EJ Obiena and PATAFA puts to show just how unsupported the local athletes are outside of the limelight, even for those considered elites.
“I am fighting to bring honor and glory for my country. Others fight for ego or power. But that is not me. I fight for higher principles,” Obiena expressed.