EJ Obiena

Ace pole vaulter EJ Obiena was accused of corruption without basis, according to Sen. Pia Cayetano. (File photo from Agence France-Presse)

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate recalled on Monday the proposed 2022 budget of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for supposedly taking a “hands-off” approach on the issue involving pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa).

It was Sen. Pia Cayetano who moved to recall the budget of the PSC during Monday’s budget plenary deliberations.

“The reason I am asking for the recall of the budget of PSC is because PSC took a hands-off approach. They said: ‘Work it out.’ How can you do that to your national athlete? Work it out? Look into it. Give importance to our national athlete who was accused just like that. And it was without basis.”

Earlier, Patafa claimed that Obiena, who finished 11th in the pole vault competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, falsified his liquidation reports. Patafa then ordered the athlete to return €85,000 (over P4.8 million) to the national sporting association.

READ: Patafa orders Obiena to return financial assistance

Obiena was also accused of failing to pay his coach, Vitaly Petrov.

The Filipino pole vaulter, however, denied in a press conference over the weekend that he failed to release the salary of Petrov for the services he rendered from early 2018 onward.

Petrov, who joined Obiena at the conference, also disputed Patafa’s accusations and said that Obiena paid him the €5,000 monthly stipend.

Obiena said he had filed formal complaints against Patafa before the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and World Athletics.

READ: EJ Obiena files formal complaints vs Patafa, says claims ‘damaged my reputation’

“I’ve filed formal complaints with the POC, IOC, and the World Athletics, as we are now talking standard defamation of character,” Obiena had said.

Patafa, meanwhile, belied Obiena’s claim of “character assassination” and said that the investigation conducted by its board on Obiena was purely internal and had been kept away from the prying eyes of the public.

READ: Patafa belies EJ Obiena claim of ‘character assasination’

“This is a young man with a beautiful career ahead of him. Anyone who has ever tried to participate in sports can just imagine the emotional and mental anguish that this young boy is going through these accusations of Patafa,” Cayetano went on.

Sen. Richard Gordon backed Cayetano’s position.

“Here we are saying that our athlete is corrupt? My gosh! I think there’s got to be something done about this. There’s got to be some breaks applied because they’re out of control,” Gordon said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joel Villanueva expressed hope that the PSC  would “do something about” the matter.

“It’s not every day in the history of this country that we have someone like EJ Obiena,” he said.

The Senate approved Cayetano’s motion to reconsider the budget of the PSC, which was approved in the plenary last week.


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