By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
Pole vault star Ernest John “EJ” Obiena (Photo from EJ Facebook page)
MANILA – Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Sunday expressed his disappointment after Ernest John “EJ” Obiena confirmed the night before that he will not be in the World Indoor Championships next week in Belgrade.
His absence means Obiena, the world No. 5 men’s pole vaulter, will be the highest-ranked athlete not joining in the competition.
“Nakakalungkot na dahil sa bangayan, nasayang ang pagkakataong mabigyan muli ng karangalan ang ating bansa sa larangan ng sports (It is sad that due to the discord, the opportunity to give our country honor again in the field of sports was wasted). What has now happened to our battle cry ‘We win as one’ if we could not even resolve issues as one and unite and support our athletes as one people, as one nation?” Go said in a statement.
In a hearing called on Feb. 7, the Senate Committee on Sports, in which Go is presiding, pleaded for Obiena to reconsider his earlier decision and re-enter the mediation to end his longstanding rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).
Go reiterated his call for the sake of the country.
“Dahil ongoing pa ang mediation process, patuloy akong nananawagan sa PSC at sa dalawang panig na mag-usap at bilisan ang pagresolba ng gusot na ito. Ang kooperasyon ninyo ang kailangan para maayos ang lahat for the sake of our country. Magkaisa po tayo at sana ay walang pulitika sa sports (Since the mediation process is ongoing, I continue to call on the PSC and the two sides to talk and expedite the resolution of this dispute. Your cooperation is what is needed to fix everything for the sake of our country. Let’s unite and hopefully there will be no politics in sports),” he said.
He also asked both parties to properly resolve what needs to be resolved, set aside personal interests.
“Maging magandang ehemplo po sana kayo sa inyong salita at gawa dahil maraming mga Pilipino ang tumitingala sa inyo. Umaasa ang buong sambayanan na magiging maganda ang kahihinatnan ng usapang ito para na rin sa kapakanan ng susunod na henerasyon ng mga atleta (Please be a good example in your words and deeds because many Filipinos look up to you. The whole nation is hoping for the good results of the mediation for the benefit of the next generation),” Go further said.
‘The country I love loses’
In his statement on Saturday night, Obiena said the biggest loser of PATAFA’s decision not to endorse him for the World Indoor Championship is the Philippines.
“Today the country I love loses,” the title of Obiena’s statement reads.
He insisted that he is in “prime physical and mental condition” to compete, but without PATAFA’s endorsement, he now needs to watch the event from the sidelines.
“The country has not been put first by all. Country comes after personal considerations for some. This is more than unfortunate. The nation pays the price,” Obiena continued. “If the country was ever put first, I should be headed to Belgrade now. But I am not.”
He turned emotional in the end by saying, “I shed a tear now with a heavy heart, but not just for myself. I shed a tear for my country. We had a chance to show the world our greatness. And we lost it.” (PNA)