P12-M aid could be suspended pending resolution of Obiena-Patafa row
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will be forced to suspend financial assistance to the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) and star pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena if a planned mediation process aimed at patching the rift between the two parties doesn’t take place.
This was revealed to the Inquirer on Monday by a source privy to the ongoing probe on the controversy between the athlete and his federation.
The onus on agreeing to mediation is currently on the shoulders of Obiena, who has yet to sign the mediation submission agreement transmitted to both parties three weeks ago by the PSC, which is looking to resolve the current row between the athletics body and the Tokyo Olympian.
“The parties owe it to the government and the Filipino people to resolve the issues amicably. A failed mediation will be detrimental to both parties,’’ PSC Chair William Ramirez warned.
Ramirez did not expound on how detrimental it would be, but a source said the PSC would have no recourse but to suspend funding to Patafa and Obiena until the row is ironed out.
The PSC has set aside more than P12 million in financial assistance for Obiena’s overseas training up to December next year.
Not out to judge
“Again, my role is to facilitate communication between the parties, not to decide who is right or wrong. Mediation is the best option for now so the parties can reconcile, open communication lines and continue the work that needs to be done,’’ said Ramirez.The Patafa has already signed the mediation document.
The Inquirer source intimated that both the Patafa and Obiena have yet to submit the liquidation papers of the financial assistance in question to the PSC, a key document that could very well define the degree of culpability among the parties involved.
POC to probe
The PSC mediation process is one of three attempts to reconcile Patafa and Obiena.
The House of Representatives has arranged a Congressional inquiry on Tuesday that will look into the controversy.
Before that, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) launched a probe on its own, forming an ethics panel chaired by rowing president Patrick “Pato’’ Gregorio to handle the parallel investigation. POC chief legal officer Wharton Chan is also part of the ethics body, which was activated based on a complaint filed by Obiena.
Ramirez has offered to mediate with the assistance of PSC Executive Director lawyer Guillermo Iroy, Philippine Sports Institute national training director Marc Edward Velasco and lawyer Charlie Ho, a board member of the POC.
The rift between the athlete and his national sports association stemmed from the late payments Obiena made to his Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov with the Patafa asking the Tokyo Olympian to return 85,000 euros (over P4.8 million), which represents a major chunk of Petrov’s salary since 2018.
Obiena snapped back at Patafa, pointing out that he had already settled the financial obligation to Petrov in full and emphasized that not paying his coach on time is not a crime.
Petrov backed Obiena by issuing an official statement that he already received the entire amount from Obiena. Reports have it that Obiena paid Petrov in three tranches only last month from bank accounts in Germany, Dubai and Manila.