Olympic pole vaulter Ernest John (EJ) Obiena has refused the offer of mediation, or a period of legal confidentiality, for the ongoing funding allegations brought by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).
In November of 2021, PATAFA head Philip Juico accused the world’s sixth-ranked pole vaulter of misappropriating funds and said that he "falsified his liquidations" and "embezzled" P4.8 million worth of funds allocated for his Ukrainian coach, Vitaly Petrov.
Obiena and his team have been adamant in denying the allegations.
As early as November, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has offered that the two parties go into mediation through the help of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center.
On Jan. 8, the PSC said that Obiena had agreed to the mediation, which would include a social media ceasefire. PATAFA followed suit with a confirmation on Jan. 12.
However, the 26-year-old pole vaulter has now announced that he is stepping away from the mediation, alleging that PATAFA acted in "bad faith" and used the period of mediation to "silence me and to keep the truth hidden."
"I am terrible at a job I never wanted—As accountant and payroll manager," Obiena said through a social media post. "This is my mistake and have admitted to it from the very start. I’m a pole vaulter not a financial manager."
In the past, Obiena had admitted that he had failed to Petrov on time to which he said "paying late isn't a crime."
He went on to hit back against a Jan. 4 press conference held by PATAFA, wherein they shared shared that they're also planning to file a criminal estafa case against the athlete and drop him from the national training pool.
"They deliberately excluded the fact that as early as 2020, I have already emailed them Coach Vitaliy’s bank details. Again, this is irrefutably misleading," Obiena said.
"I never wanted the money to go thru me, but it still did while PATAFA had Coach Vitaliy’s bank details. Isini(g)it niyo ako dito tapos ngayon idedemanda ako at sisisihin niyo dahil di ko nagampanan yung trabaho ninyo."
"On top of all false accusations, they even went as low as to attack my own mother! Where is the dignity and respect in that?" Obiena queried, pertaining to his mother and former PATAFA auditor Jeanette Obiena also being accused of embezzling over P620,000 which was said to be a reimbursement for Petrov's coaching fee in early 2019.
"I have nothing to hide and that is the reason why I do not want to go to confidential mediation. 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," the pole vaulter said.
The athlete added that "if all else fails", he would be forced to leave to stop representing the country in pole vaulting.
"I have lost faith in my NSA president but I have not lost faith in our country and our country’s true sport leaders. I trust that they will set aside politics and do what is RIGHT and good for the country.
"If all else fails then my NSA would have succeeded in pushing me out of the country. I would be forced to step away from Philippine Athletics."
PSC and PATAFA have yet to comment on Obiena's statement.