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PBA PARTY LIST HITS PATAFA OVER OBIENA TREATMENT

The Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list on Monday criticized the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) for claiming pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena “falsified the liquidations submitted” to the federation, warning that the Tokyo Olympian could become another Wesley So and play for another country if they could not properly back up their accusations against the athlete.

“Mabigat na bintang ‘yong binabato nila kay EJ. They should not be making accusations if they do not have incontrovertible proof that EJ really misappropriated the funds intended for his training,” PBA Party-list spokesperson Atty Migs. Nograles said.

Because of the allegations, funding for Obiena’s training in Formia, Italy, has been suspended pending the investigation of the committee tasked by PATAFA to look into the issue.

“Huwag sana nilang hintayin na maging Wesley So rin si EJ Obiena. It is hard enough to lose star athletes, but it is especially heartbreaking to see them play for another country when they could be playing for the Philippines if only our sporting officials treated them better,” she added.

PATAFA is ordering Obiena to return €85,000 or some P4.8 million, alleging that the pole vaulter did not pay the sum to his coach, Vitaly Petrov. Petrov helped Obiena rise in his pole-vaulting career and called the shots for the 26-year-old in the Tokyo Olympics last July.

Obiena has denied the allegations against him, filing formal complaints with the POC (Philippine Olympic Committee), IOC (International Olympic Committee) and World Athletics. He stressed that he does not consider the allegations “a betrayal from my country,” but rather a betrayal “by certain people.”

Petrov, who joined Obiena in a press conference Sunday, also disputed PATAFA’S accusations and said that Obiena had paid him the €5,000 monthly stipend. Petrov said he has also written PATAFA President Philip Ella Juico to inform him that he received his pay from Obiena.

Obiena has said he is not closing the door on continuing his pole-vaulting career and representing the Philippines in future events.

“If Coach Petrov really did not receive his monthly stipend, it is of course only logical that he would want to get paid for the services he rendered. But why would he then say he was paid? Bakit mo sasabihing nabayaran ka na kung ang intensyon mo ay singilin ang bayad sa’yo? Someone is not telling the truth and it seems it is not Coach Petrov,” Nograles said.

Because of the allegations, funding for Obiena’s training in Formia, Italy, has been suspended pending the investigation of the committee tasked by PATAFA to look into the issue.

“It is these kinds of allegations that demoralize our athletes and make them lose motivation. We call on PATAFA to resolve this matter quickly and if it is proven that EJ Obiena did pay his coach all that he was owed, then PATAFA should issue a public apology,” the Davaoeña lawyer said.

Obiena has said he is not closing the door on continuing his pole-vaulting career and representing the Philippines in future events. However, he also made it clear that it was up to PATAFA to make the necessary steps to correct the issue at hand.

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