Fans of pole vaulter EJ Obiena poured in their support for him after he announced he will still represent the Philippines despite being embroiled in a funding controversy with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.
In a statement on November 29, Obiena said he is still loyal to the country.
“Even now, in this current crisis, I have no desire to change nations. I see these statements on social media and active encouragement to switch allegiances. But this is not who I am and why I do this. I want to win for Philippines and show the world what we can do. I want to win for us,” he said.
Obiena also confirmed reports that several nations made lucrative offers for him to jump ship and compete for them.
The Filipino athlete said foreign teams also made the same attempt several years ago.
His response to them has been the same—he said “no.”
“Mr. Lafferty (his mentor James Lafferty) and I always agreed loyalty matters. I therefore said ‘no’ several years ago. I love my country. I am proud to compete for the flag of the Philippines,” Obiena said.
The 26-year-old athlete also stressed that he will not abandon the Philippines for money.
“From my athlete’s ego, I take pride and joy to win and win even when I’m not ‘supposed’ to be the victor. I will never abandon my nation because of money. That’s not loyalty. At least not how I define it,” he said.
Lafferty previously informed broadcaster Gretchen Ho about offers made to Obiena to change passports in an interview.
“A number of countries are looking at this situation and laughing uncontrollably at how the Philippines is driving away a world class athlete the can offer a passport to,” Lafferty was quoted as saying.
Salute to EJ Obiena
Obiena also thanked all his supporters, both from the Philippines and overseas, who continued to cheer for him amid the controversy he was facing.
“Speaking of loyalty, this is the foundation of my strong defense of these allegations. When one values loyalty, one cannot comprehend how my own ‘mother organization’ turned on me, never consulted with me, never asked me any questions, and never gave me the benefit of the doubt. That’s not loyalty. Again, at least not how I define it,” he said.
“I am fighting to bring honor and glory for my country. Others fight for ego, or power. But that’s not me. I fight for higher principles. Loyalty is a virtue. And loyalty still matters,” he added.
Social media users in the comments section praised Obiena for his “loyalty” and “pride” for representing the Philippines.
“Very well said EJ Obiena no amount of money can change your pride once you compete with your flag at you shoulder, thank you!” one user said.
“Huwag mo na pansinin ang mga buwisit! Jump lang ng jump!” another user wrote.
“Laban lang EJ, you have the whole nation’s back, pasensya ka na naging biktima ka ng mga linta sa gobyerno, but I salute to your stand not to change your color,” another user added.
In a previous post, Obiena announced he tapped lawyer Alex Avisado and the Gana Tan Atienza Avisado Law Offices as his counsels to represent him in all legal matters, both for current and future investigations.
He also asked Lafferty and lawyer Bobbet Bruce in Manila to be his official spokespersons.