Ernest John “EJ” Obiena has assured that he will continue to represent the Philippines despite offers to switch allegiances.
The world number six pole vaulter confirmed late week that there have been lucrative deals for him to consider naturalization, but maintained that “loyalty is a virtue”.
“Mr. [Jim] 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. I get chills every time I hear our anthem played and to watch that flag rise high,” Obiena said in a statement.
“I will never abandon my nation because of money. That’s not loyalty. At least not how I define it,” he added.
He said not even his row with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) would prompt him to consider bolting out of the Philippine team.
“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,” Obiena continued.
Despite the vow, the reigning Southeast Asian Games champion remains puzzled why PATAFA has vilified him.
“[Loyalty] 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, never gave me the benefit of the doubt. That’s not loyalty. Again, at least not how I define it,” Obiena said.
Lafferty, Obiena’s longtime mentor, first broke out the offers in an interview with TV 5 reporter Gretchen Ho last week. PNA