PH national sports in limbo, again
BY Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
ANOTHER depressing national sports issue surfaced again last week. It’s about our national pole vault standout and Asian record holder EJ Obiena. Obiena who is being accused by the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) where he’s affiliated with.
PATAFA initially alleged 2020 Tokyo Olympian Obiena was guilty of embezzlement, falsification of liquidation documents and qualified theft. As expected, Obiena vehemently denied and accused his home federation PATAFA of “character assassination”. Obiena warned that in case the brouhaha is not solved internally, the issue will reach the world’s governing body the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
POC president Cong. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino already echoed Obiena’s and his coach Vitaly Petrov of Ukraine’s statements that the lanky six-foot-two Tondo, Manila-born Obiena is telling the truth, based on their impartial investigation. Petrov also debunked PATAFA’s allegation headed by Philip Juico that Obiena misused Petrov’s salary when the Ukrainian himself appeared and issued statement in a Zoom call from Italy that he has been fully paid by Obiena for his services, although occasionally delayed. “I have been paid the full sum by EJ, both directly and indirectly. I have no problem with EJ”, said Petrov.
The issue turned from bad to worse when Obiena himself announced his plan to retire at his young age of 26 years old. That shocked the former boxer Sen. Manny Pacquiao, some sports officials and sports avid fans (like me), and appealed to Obiena to reconsider his plans to retire knowing that Obiena is a sure gold medal winner in the coming 31st Southeast Asia Games rescheduled to May 12 – 23 in Hanoi, Vietnam next year. Yes, Obiena is also a strong potential to collect a gold medal in 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. He established his personal best of 5.93 meters, an Asian record.
“Mas maganda sana kung nagsagawa muna ng mas malalim na pagsisiyasat ang PATAFA bago ito gumawa ng memo para kay EJ na tila nai-leak pa sa media. Bilang isang atleta, nararamdaman ko po ang sama ng loob ni EJ”, urged the world’s only eight division world boxing champion Paquiao. I agree and that’s the proper way to do it. The statements of Petrov, Tolentino and Pacquiao are slaps on PATAFA’s top honcho Juico. The Formia, Italy-based Obiena, presently ranks number five in the world demanded public apology and full retraction of all allegations that were hurled by PATAFA saying that the accusation tarnished his image and has deeply affected his training for higher level competitions especially for next year’s Asian Games.
“The only thing I own in this life is my reputation and if this does not happen (apology), I will consider other options being an immediate retirement from the sport that I love in the Philippines and probably returning to school”, said the Olympian Obiena. Obiena is also officially filing complaints before the POC, IOC, and the World Athletics to clear his tainted name. “As we are now talking of slander and defamation of character, I have maintained legal counsel and I do intend to pursue this vigorously,” he added.
Sad. Athlete versus his home federation. That happened to me also in 1964 when I was still a young amateur national cyclist for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. This will be my topic next week.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. COLOSSIANS 3: 18-20.
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