Obiena, Patafa move on

EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association are moving on, leaving their bitter feud behind in a bid to gain more glory in the international arena.

In a social media post, Obiena thanked the federation for reinstating him to the national team following their lengthy and controversial dispute that even reached the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, Senate, World Athletics and Court of Arbitration for Sports.

The 26-year-old Olympian said he is glad that their problem is finally over and he can now move on to focus on winning in major international meets, including the 32nd Southeast Asian Games and the 19th Asian Games next year.

He also thanked the PSC for stepping in and accepting the Patafa recommendation of reinstating him to the national squad.

“I am very thankful to the Patafa leadership and the PSC for reinstating me to the national team,” said Obiena, who reset the Asian record with a leap of 5.94 meters during the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last July.

The feat earned him a bronze medal — the country’s first in the world’s most prestigious athletics conclave outside the Olympics.

“While I shall properly leave the past in the past, I believe the facts have spoken. The Commission on Audit has spoken. My fellow countrymen have spoken and my team and I have proven our dedication with our performances on the world stage and a first-ever World Championships medal.”

Obiena’s road back to the good graces of his federation has been very painful and controversial.

Their friction was sparked by an apostille affidavit executed by pole vault great Sergey Bubka that alleges that Obiena failed to pay the salary of his coach, Vitaly Petrov, amounting to 85,000 euros or roughly P4.8 million.

The federation quietly made an inquiry and found out that Obiena belatedly paid Petrov in tranches from banks from Dubai, Germany and Manila.

But Petrov strongly denied that he made the claim, even appearing in a press conference with Obiena to say that everything is going well between them.

Obiena also hit Patafa, accusing it of harassment before filing a complaint before the POC, World Athletics and the International Olympic Committee.

The POC acted swiftly, declaring Patafa chief Philip Ella Juico persona non-grata while the Senate launched an investigation and tasked the PSC to settle the dispute.

Juico fired back by filing a case before the Lausanne-based CAS, forcing the POC to withdraw its cases against him.

With things getting messy, former PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez stepped in and offered to broker a mediation to put both the prized athlete and the federation on the same page.

Obiena initially declined, but eventually agreed, leading to a settlement agreement that included his endorsement to the 31st SEA Games and World Championships in exchange for his apology to the federation and its stakeholders.

Obiena said his reinstatement is for the best interest of Philippine sports.

“This was a long awaited and just decision, and one in the best interest of Philippine sports,” he said.

“It’s also a decision that is congruent with the values and principles of the Olympic spirit. Now, I look forward to working tirelessly to bring more glory to our beloved Philippines.”

Patafa secretary general Edward Kho also heaved a sigh of relief seeing that the dispute has been finally settled.

“Overall, we need to move forward,” Kho said.

“It has been a very tumultuous episode between Patafa and the people involved. We can’t just go around in circles or else nothing will happen. The issue has been concluded in the mediation so it’s back to zero again. It gives the leadership of Patafa the choice to move forward and that was his decision, which the Patafa board approved.”

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