Citing 'bad faith' by PATAFA, Obiena declines PSC mediation

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2022 01:04 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2022 01:54 PM

Philippines' Ernest John Obiena prepares to compete during the men's pole vault event at The Diamond League AG Memorial Van Damme athletics meeting at The King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels in this September 3, 2021 file photo. John Thys, AFP.
Philippines' Ernest John Obiena prepares to compete during the men's pole vault event at The Diamond League AG Memorial Van Damme athletics meeting at The King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels in this September 3, 2021 file photo. John Thys, AFP.

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena on Monday announced that he is officially withdrawing from the mediation process offered by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

In a statement, Obiena said his decision is due to the "bad faith" of his own national sports association (NSA), the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), and its president Philip Ella Juico.

Obiena and the PATAFA have been locked in a funding row for several months now, with the NSA accusing the Tokyo Olympian of misappropriating funds. The PSC has stepped into the situation and offered to mediate, with the assistance of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc.

However, Obiena said he cannot engage in the process given the actions of the PATAFA.

"I thank PSC chairman Butch Ramirez for his hard work as a peacemaker. I believe in mediation as a tool for peace and have full trust and confidence in the integrity of chairman Butch Ramirez," Obiena said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, it seems that PATAFA is only using mediation as means to silence me and to keep the truth hidden. They always trumpet that I should go to mediation if I have nothing to hide. I have nothing to hide and that is the reason why I do not want to go to confidential mediation," he added.

"Darkness is the home of the oppressor. I want the truth out in public, the same public where I was judged as guilty without due process by Mr. Juico.

"It is with great regret that I am forced to officially withdraw from the PSC offer of mediation due to the bad faith of Mr. Juico and PATAFA."

On January 4, the PATAFA released the results of its investigation into Obiena, where it found that the athlete "misappropriated the amount of 61,026.80 euros" meant for the coaching fee of his Ukrainian coach, Vitaly Petrov. 

His mother, former PATAFA auditor Jeanette Obiena, was also found to have misappropriated the amount of P624,116.76.

PATAFA intended to file an estafa case against Obiena and drop him from the national training pool, although these actions were put on hold after the PSC and Malacañang called on the two parties to come to a peaceful resolution.

Obiena, in his statement, accused the PATAFA of manipulating the facts "to mislead the public."

"I am terrible at a job I never wanted -- as accountant and payroll manager," said Obiena, who nonetheless stressed that all of his pending liquidation with the PSC has been completed as of January 21.

"It is a recipe for failure to enter into mediation with one party is in BAD FAITH; PATAFA was in bad faith this whole time as they signed the mediation with their true intention to still pursue the filing of a baseless criminal case of ESTAFA against me," Obiena also said.

"PATAFA has said they want a peaceful resolution, but their actions prove this as a LIE," he added.

Obiena accused the PATAFA of acting in bad faith from the very beginning, starting with the apostilled document signed by Ukrainian pole vaulting legend Sergey Bubka that prompted the investigation into his finances in the first place. 

"They (PATAFA) have been telling the public that Sergey Bubka voluntarily executed his affidavit. They omitted the fact that it was Mr. Juico who prepared the affidavit of Sergey Bubka, instructed him to get it apostilled, paid all associated costs, and cajoled him to sign. They tried the same thing with my coach, Vitaliy Petrov," said Obiena.

"Using this, they have been manipulating the people into believing their statements that I have not been paying my coach," he added.

"We have always called this a witch hunt. And clearly it is. "

Obiena also alleged that the documents released by the PATAFA in their January 4 press conference were incomplete and meant to "suit their story." He also called out the organization for "attacking" his mother, Jeanette, who worked with the NSA as an auditor.

"Where is the dignity and respect in that? I do not believe I can enter into any mediation with people who are seemingly focused on destroying me," Obiena said. "For me, hurling multiple false accusations, hiding information and lying are not the framework for good faith and mediation."

"They used friends, relatives and fellow athletes as pawns of their aggression," he added. "These actions are despicable and have no place in sports, especially in Philippine sports."

In withdrawing from the PSC's offer of mediation, Obiena admitted that he has "lost faith in my NSA president," and lamented how Juico and the PATAFA's actions have pushed away a world-class athlete.

"What do world-class Filipino athletes have to lose if they are pushed away from their own nation by their own NSA?" he said.

Nonetheless, Obiena said he has not lost faith in the country and the country's "true sports leaders."

"I trust that they will set aside politics and do what is RIGHT and good for the country. If all else fail then my NSA would have succeeded in pushing me out of the country. I would be forced to step away from Philippine athletics," said Obiena, who has previously acknowledged that his ongoing feud with the PATAFA has greatly impacted his training.

"I do not jump for Mr. Philip Ella Juico or the PATAFA. I jump for my beloved country, PHILIPPINES," he stressed.

Obiena is currently recovering from surgery to fix the meniscus in his left knee. He is expected to open his season on January 28 in Germany, before competing in the Asian Indoor Championships on February 11-13 in Kazakhstan.

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