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EJ Obiena hopes for 'fair day in court' as he faces estafa raps by PATAFA

EJ Obiena is ready to face PATAFA's legal actions against him. Reuters (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—EJ Obiena said on Tuesday night that he has already anticipated the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association's decision to drop him from the national team amid their row.

PATAFA said earlier in the day that Obiena will be removed from the Philippine team pool and likewise be charged with estafa for alleged unpaid coaching fees to his coach Vitaly Petrov as a result of its investigation, something Obiena likened to a "witch hunt".

[Related Story: PATAFA dropping EJ Obiena from national team, mulling estafa raps too]

"I am saddened by the decision of the PATAFA committee and their recommendations but I am not really surprised. I am relieved that I now finally know what I am being charged with. From the very start, the PATAFA proceeding had the look and feel of a witch hunt," Obiena said in a statement.

Petrov will also be slapped with a complaint to World Athletics for violation of its Integrity Code of Conduct.

Obiena said that they are ready to face the charges PATAFA slapped on them.

"On the recommendation of filing of estafa, I am ready to face all cases and charges filed against me in any court or forum. I am hopeful that I will have my fair day in court and that I can finally end this baseless witch hunt," Obiena said about his looming lawsuit. "I am ready for everything that Philip Juico and the PATAFA will throw at me as their intention now is finally clear, they want me out of the Philippine Team and they don’t want me to jump for the Philippines."

He then said, "I have already informed Coach Vitaly Petrov of the plans of PATAFA to file charges against him in the World Athletics Federation. He is unperturbed by this. He is a good man and has treated me like his own son. I am sorry that he is being dragged into this."

Obiena also lashed out at PATAFA's decision to declare his mentor, Jim Lafferty, as persona non grata, saying, "Jim is a sports patriot for the Philippines and has been helping Filipino athletes for more than 15 years.  He has spent millions of his own money to help our athletes without asking or receiving anything in return. He has done so much for the Philippines, the Filipino athlete and even for the PATAFA; and instead of giving him a pat on the back, he is now being rewarded by declaring him a persona non-grata. This is so senseless."

Meanwhile, he thanked the POC for its assurance that he remains a part of the national team despite his beef with PATAFA.

POC chief Bambol Tolentino said earlier in the day that he will push for the inclusion of Obiena to the national team this year even without PATAFA's endorsement.

[Related Story: POC vows to still include EJ Obiena in national team after PATAFA's 'vengeful act']

"I thank the POC for doing what is right for the nation and as the National Olympic Committee," Obiena said.

He then said that he will now focus on his training as he prepares for the 2022 pole vaulting season beginning next month.

"I will leave everything now to my legal team," Obiena further stated. "I have a small window to save my season and I do not want to be distracted any further by Philip Juico and the PATAFA."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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