The Philippine Athletic Track and Field Association (PATAFA) maintains it has no ill-will toward EJ Obiena, as the Filipino pole vaulter said he is now seeking legal assistance in the middle of an ongoing public disagreement with the former over his use of training funds.
Obiena has blasted the PATAFA in social media after getting wind of a reported move to investigate his use of training funds. Obiena was ordered by the PATAFA to return €85,000 (over P4.8 million) in coaching fees to Vitaly Petrov after claiming that he falsified his liquidation reports. After the Olympian denied the reports, the federation claimed that he’s late in settling his payment and it “wants to know the schedule” of his payment.
On Nov. 24 the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) issued a statement asking the parties to refrain from giving public statements on the issue.
But in TV interviews today, PATAFA president Philip Juico said they only wanted to clear up the use of public funds.
“In the first place, there's no need for mediation because no one is fighting. We just said we discovered something, that his coach and sponsor did not receive payment. We need to know what really happened to improve our policies. Is it bad to ask questions? After all, we're the ones liable to PSC and Commission on Audit,” Juico said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Juico reiterated that PATAFA is only fulfilling its duty to investigate Obiena’s financial matters. “We're just fulfilling our mandate. It's up to you to follow, just take responsibility in the investigation. This is part of our job, nothing personal.”
In a separate interview with ANC’s Headstart, Juico also said that athletes have responsibilities.
"Give and take ito, hindi ka puwede as I said, salok nang salok, kung ikaw ay athlete, kuha ka nang kuha. You also have responsibilities, because you are an athlete you are a mature person, mayron tayong usapan dito, we have a covenant—ito ang ibibigay ko sayo, ito ang gagawin mo," said Juico, noting that the government has spent around P40 million for Obiena over the last 5-6 years.
The Olympian has admitted that he paid his coach late, but it doesn’t mean that making late payments is “a crime.” He also said that he recommended to the PATAFA that his coaching staff should be paid directly.
Obiena maintained that he never took a “single centavo” from Petrov. He also admitted that he “sometimes cannot manage the workload and training and get everything done to PATAFA’s satisfaction.”
In a press statement on Thursday, Nov. 25, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William Ramirez said he will forward a “Mediation Submission Agreement” to Obiena and the PATAFA for review.
Ramirez stated that in case there is no settlement within 30 calendar days, the dispute will be resolved by the PSC.