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PATAFA feud ends, EJ Obiena to defend SEA Games title and serve as flagbearer

The feud has finally come to an end. 

Almost five months have passed since Chinoy pole-vaulting star EJ Obiena began facing accusations of misusing government funds that were meant to serve as payment to globally renowned coach Vitaly Petrov. Acting on what was allegedly a statement of non-payment signed by Petrov, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) issued Obiena a letter ordering the return of the coaching fees last November. 

Although the claims were then immediately refuted by both Obiena and Petrov, it was only recently that the Obiena-PATAFA dispute came into a resolution. During this months-long ordeal, Obiena missed his chance to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia last March due to PATAFA’s lack of endorsement. The Tokyo Olympian was also initially not included in the official list of athletes to be sent to the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, despite his status as the reigning pole vault champion. 

On the other side of the embezzlement feud, PATAFA was penalized by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) with a 90-day suspension. PATAFA president Philip Juico was also declared persona non grata. Both resolutions have since been lifted following the successful reconciliation between Obiena and the national sports federation last March 30. 

In a released statement, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William Ramirez officially announced, “The Philippine Sports Commission-led mediation proceedings on the athletics row reached its fifth session today (Wednesday). It is with much joy that we announce that both parties have agreed to a settlement and the proceedings ended successfully.” 

“Mr. Obiena expressed his apologies to Patafa, its board members, Mr. Juico and his teammates, and both have assured each other of forgiveness, to start anew and move on,” Ramirez continued.

With the end of the feud comes the opportunity for Obiena to pick up some lost momentum. Currently ranked sixth in the world, the Asian record holder will now serve as the Philippines’ flag bearer for the SEA Games in Vietnam this May 12. He is expected to defend his title that was previously won with a jump clearance of 5.45 meters, a score that is now almost 0.5 meters short of his current 5.93-meter personal best. 

Faced with the news, Obiena posted on Facebook, “It is my pride and honor to be carrying our flag in the opening ceremony of the upcoming SEA games in Hanoi.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the sports governing bodies of the Philippines for giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity,” added Obiena. “I am not just representing athletes but over 100 million proud Filipinos.”


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