Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena faced the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) during House Committee on Sports and Youth Development's hearing on the failure to pay Ukrainian Coach Vitaly Petrov on time.

/ 17 December 2021

The national athlete was allegedly involved in embezzlement claimed by PTAFA for not paying Petrov on time since 2018.

PATAFA President Philip Juico noted that payment for Petrov was a 28-month delay after the first release of funds for the coaching fee.

Prior to the House Committee hearing, Obiena appeared in a press conference with Petrov and denied the allegations against him. 

PATAFA then changed the accusations from embezzlement to failure to pay the coach’s salary on time.

Hindi po ako magnanakaw. Ako po ay atletang Pilipino at marangal po ako. I am an athlete, and my mission is to train and compete for the Philippines and for the Filipino people,” said Obiena during the committee hearing.

The Asian games medalist explained that he liquidated his expenses, but it is not his job to pay the coaching fee for PATAFA.

Hindi naman po yatang reasonable na aasahan kaming mga atletamaging accountant ng PATAFA. Ang trabaho po namin ay mag-training, mag-compete, at pinakaimportante is to compete at the highest level we need to. Hindi ko naman po ito trabaho, hirap na hirap na po akong gawin ito habang nasa kalagitnaan po ng ensayo ng preparation ng competition season,” said Obiena.

In his resolution, Manila 2nd District Rep. Rolando Valeriano stated that PATAFA’s accusations can be treated as harassment or worse sabotage on the career of the national athlete.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez contradicted the resolution.

“This is not to harass EJ because we believe in him as far as athletics for pole vault is concern, and we want him to succeed, me, I want him to succeed. But there has to be answers on the issue, character, and integrity,” said Rodriguez.

Philippine Sports Commission President Monico Puentevella, on the other hand, expressed that the main issue is miscommunication.

PATAFA agreed to a mediation to be led by the PSC to patch things up between them and the national athlete but Obiena stressed that he will consult his lawyer on the matter.