PSC, senators want end to ‘harassment’ vs EJ Obiena

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EJ Obiena pole vault sea games

FILE– Pole Vaulter Ernest John Obiena during the 30th Southeast Asian Games. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/ INQUIR

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and several senators on Tuesday called for a stop to the “harassment” against pole vaulter EJ Obiena who was accused of allegedly falsifying liquidation documents.

During the plenary debates on the 2022 budget, senators reopened discussions on the budget of the PSC, which the Senate recalled upon the motion of Senator Pia Cayetano who lamented the commission’s “hand-off” approach on the Obiena-Patafa issue.

Cayetano said she and PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez together with the commission’s budget sponsor, Senator Joel Villanueva, had a meeting earlier in the day to discuss the issue involving Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa).

“They immediately called our attention to relay that they regret that these things would happen and that PSC values and gives utmost importance to our athletes, especially to a national athlete as I always say, EJ is a national treasure that gave pride and honor to the Filipino people,” Villanueva said.

“The PSC also shares the sentiments of our distinguished colleagues here in the Senate and that PSC even further relay that we should continue to protect and support out athletes and not to demoralize them and with that we are supporting the PSC in its call to stop the harassment against EJ Obiena,” he added.

Cayetano wanted to confirm if the call for an end to the “harassment” against Obiena was the exact statement of the PSC chairman.

“I’d like to thank [Sen. Villanueva] if that is correct, if that is a verbatim statement that PSC is calling to stop the harassment against EJ?” she asked.

Villanueva answered in the affirmative.

“I appreciate it. Stop the harassment and that is exactly what our poor boy EJ Obiena has gone through, I think all the athletes, all the Filipino athletes, those who have brought us glory…those who are aspiring, they need to hear that again and again,” Cayetano said.

She then asked if Ramirez would be prepared to make a separate statement on the issue.

In response, Villanueva said the chairman would release a statement on Wednesday.

“The chairman will really make sure that this message will be heard tomorrow coming from the Philippine Sport Commission,” he added.

Villanueva also relayed to his colleagues the assurance from the PSC that athletes who may face a similar situation as Obiena can reach out to the PSC.

Ma’am sorry po, oki lang po pa-add na lang po ito after 13th paragraph po?

The proposed 2022 budget of the PSC was eventually approved in the Senate.

However, Cayetano warned that she would move to remove from the Patafa its budget under the PSC if there would be no “sincere efforts” to “rectify the grave injustice done upon” Obiena.

This, as she noted that the budget process does not end with the Senate approval since both houses of Congress will still convene for a bicameral conference committee to reconcile disagreeing provisions in the proposed 2022 General Appropriations Act.

Earlier, Patafa ordered Obiena, who finished 11th in the pole vault competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, to return €85,000 (over P4.8 million) to the national sporting association over the alleged falsification of his liquidation reports.

Obiena was also accused of failing to pay his coach Vitaly Petrov.

The Filipino pole vaulter, however, denied in a press conference over the weekend that he failed to release the salary of Petrov for the services he rendered from early 2018 onward.

Petrov, who joined Obiena during the online presser, also disputed Patafa’s accusations and said that Obiena paid him the €5,000 monthly stipend.

Obiena said he has filed formal complaints against Patafa before the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and World Athletics.

“I’ve filed formal complaints with the POC, IOC, and the World Athletics, as we are now talking standard defamation of character,” Obiena had said.

Patafa, meanwhile, belied Obiena’s claim of “character assassination” and said that the investigation conducted by its board on Obiena was purely internal and had been kept away from the prying eyes of the public.

POC, meanwhile, recently said it will launch a probe into the issue involving Obiena and the Patafa.

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