MANILA - The Philippines' track and field governing body is willing to hold a dialogue with Olympian EJ Obiena, its president said Thursday.
Obiena was ordered to return a sum of 85,000 euros, following allegations from the Philippine Athletic Track and Field Association (PATAFA) that he did not pay the money to his coach Vitaly Petrov and that he falsified his liquidation reports.
The Olympian, who holds the national and Asian records in the pole vault, denied the allegations, showing documents proving that he already paid Petrov's salary in full.
The PATAFA has tasked an "administrative committee" to investigate the matter, said its president Philip Juico.
"Yesterday, (Philippine Sports Commission) chairman (Butch) Ramirez said, 'Have a dialogue'. 'Sure', I say. That is what should happen to begin with," Juico told ANC's Headstart.
"My only problem is the appointment. And then I saw the statement. It said, if this is not followed, the support for the federation may be withdrawn... It’s like a person brought you a certain message and you do not like the message, so patay yung messenger. Sabi ko, okay whatever the PSC wants, sunod kami, we will cooperate."
(It’s like a person brought you a certain message and you do not like the message, so you kill the messenger. I said, okay whatever the PSC wants, we will follow, we will cooperate.)
Juico earlier said that Obiena reported to PATAFA he had turned over Petrov's salary from May 2018 to August 2021 on time, but that records show the athlete settled obligations with his coach only recently this month.
The payments were also made in "tranches through banks based in Dubai, Germany, and Manila," he said.
Top athletes like Obiena have a "business manager," Juico noted.
"The top level athletes like Obiena, they get their own. Why? Because they earn from the competition, they win prizes. In other words, they have a business manager," he said.
The PATAFA has since signed a contract directly with Obiena's service provider, he added.
"Hindi issue ito (It's not an issue). It’s just a matter of, at that time, everything turned upside down because of this COVID situation. Nagkagulo," said Juico.
"We had to respond to it. Obiena cannot stop training because of COVID. We cannot be petrified into this state. Better to do something and arrange it, than do nothing."
When asked if reconciliation is possible, Juico said it would depend on the administrative committee's findings.
"A lot will depend on what they say, what our board says. We are a collegial body," he said.
Obiena is demanding public apology from PATAFA and for it to retract its allegations.