The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) on Tuesday expressed grave concern over Ernest John “EJ” Obiena’s predicament with his own federation and promised to investigate the controversial issue that has put the Olympian pole vaulter in an ugly situation.
“We are in deepest regret to realize that one of our Olympians, multi-medalist and great inspiration Ernest John Obiena of athletics, to be involved in this squabble with his home federation,” POC president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said in a statement.
The POC statement was read in the Senate on Tuesday by Sen. Francis Tolentino.
Tolentino said Obiena’s declaration to retire at this stage of his globally budding career would be a great loss for Philippine Sports.
“I am very disappointed. They could have handled the situation internally absent of any misfires from both parties,” Tolentino said. “A bountiful career is now in peril.”
Obiena, together with his legendary Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov, sought a retraction and public apology from the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) after the federation accused Obiena of falsifying liquidation documents on his coach’s salaries.
Obiena, 25, competed in the Tokyo Olympics and holds the Asian record in the sport. He is now ranked No. 5 in the world.
“Needless to say, we, Filipinos, will be deprived of two gold medals in the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games in 2022 and in Cambodia 2023, not to mention another one in the Asian Games also next year and most importantly, a representation in the Paris Olympics come 2024, due to the fiasco in the leadership of his organization,” Tolentino stressed.
“We could have easily propagated this achievement to the youth by proper guidance and genuine attitude,” he said.
The Obiena-PATAFA mess also didn’t escape the Senate’s attention as senators recalled the 2023 budget of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) after expressing dismay over the agency’s apparent hands-off stance from the controversial rift late Monday evening.
“Since the PSC is the source of funds, it could have easily — under its mandate — intervened and corrected the same from the very beginning,” Tolentino said.
Tolentino added: “But we in the POC will be steadfast and for the sake of Olympism and impartiality, will go into the details and investigate the matter.”
The POC’s Ethics Committee will investigate the controversy.