Obiena tells PATAFA late payment of coach's salary 'not a crime'

Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2021 04:27 PM



Filipino Olympian EJ Obiena maintained he has done nothing wrong as far as the salary of his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov is concerned.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the decorated pole vaulter also accused the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) of shifting the accusations leveled against him.

"I am personally shocked at the recent statement and shifting allegations of PATAFA... After Vitaly himself appeared in the press conference on November 20, refuting these allegations, now they suddenly change the written accusations. Instead of admitting they were wrong, they now changed the subject: Now the issue is, apparently, I perhaps did not pay Petrov 'on time,'" said Obiena, who previously hinted at retiring from active competition.

"That's a long way from embezzlement and theft that they accused me of. I'm not a lawyer, but as far as I know, paying late isn't a crime."

PATAFA has previously ordered Obiena to return 85,000 euros (over P4.8 million) to the federation. 

The money was meant to be paid to his coach Petrov, but PATAFA alleged that Obiena did not do so. They also accused the pole vaulter of falsifying his liquidation documents submitted to the federation.

Because of the allegations, funding for Obiena -- who is training in Formia, Italy -- has been suspended. A committee was formed to investigate the matter.

But Petrov appeared in a press conference together with Obiena and showed a copy of a letter he sent to PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico. There, Petrov made it clear that he has been paid the full amount of 85,000 euros by Obiena, and furnished proof of payment to PATAFA as well.

"My coaching fee for the period in question is a total of 85,000 euros. I have been fully paid this sum by EJ, both directly and indirectly. I confirm this. I have no problem with EJ Obiena. All is good, and we are preparing for the world championships and of course, the Olympics in Paris in 2024," Petrov said.

PATAFA later denied damaging Obiena's character. In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the federation now wants Obiena to prove that Petrov was being paid on time "during those years as a statement from PATAFA said that payments were made in tranches through banks based in Dubai, Germany and Manila.”

But Obiena cited that it indicated he has done no any wrongdoing.

"What's now clear, and we all agree -- I never took a single centavo of money from my coach. Not even the fees for transfer or exchange rates were deducted from his salary. I paid those out of pocket," he siad.

"Why are there attacks against me, without any due process, without even asking me a question, of this serious crime?"

Obiena added he is poised to pursue legal action, although he is willing to settle if his name gets cleared.

"I will raise all legal challenges and I want this to be put into a court of law where all evidence must be exposed... I am willing to 'make peace' on this case but I must have my good name cleared," he said.

"I do not hold out much hope. It is clear I am not wanted by my federation in any shape or form."


Watch more on iWantTFC