EJ Obiena agrees to mediation
MANILA, Philippines–There could be a quiet resolution to the conflict between EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) after all.
Obiena, the country’s top pole vaulter who is at war with his national federation over late salaries and liquidation issues, has agreed to submit to a mediation process, according to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chair Butch Ramirez.
“These are good gestures from both parties and a step to the right direction,” said Ramirez, who will be the mediating party between Obiena and Patafa as they seek to end a row that has threatened to expel the world No. 6 from the national pool.
“We are positive that we can end this chapter once and for all,” said Ramirez, who had earlier said the mediation process won’t be a fault-finding one.
Obiena, Patafa chief Philip Ella Juico and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino could not be reached for comment, although the three have already been asked by the PSC to refrain from making public statements to deescalate the controversy.
Mum on details
Ramirez himself remained mum on the details of the mediation, except to say that the process “will start soon.”
Obiena and Patafa had earlier agreed to undergo mediation after the issue broke out when documents were provided to the Inquirer showing that the federation was going after the pole vaulter over late payments made to his coach, pole vault star maker Vitaly Petrov of Ukraine.
But Obiena backed out of mediation over what he felt was a lack of understanding as to what exactly Patafa was accusing him of, calling the series of allegations made against him a “witch hunt.”
Instead, Obiena turned to the POC and filed harassment complaints against the Patafa. The POC’s ethics committee handled the complaint and found that Juico mismanaged the issue and branded the athletics chief “persona non grata.”
Dropped from pool
The Patafa also probed the issue on its own and threatened to drop Obiena from the national pool.
As athletes and officials clambered to either side of the divide, the PSC stepped in and forcefully demanded parties involved to defuse the tension.
Patafa, through its chair Rufus Rodriguez, on Thursday, made the first move when it decided to defer its decision to oust the reigning Asian champion and record-holder from the national team at least until next week.
Then reports came out that Obiena also went to the negotiating table via a letter to the PSC which Ramirez confirmed.
“This is a simple case of liquidation,” Ramirez had earlier said.
Obiena was being sanctioned by Patafa for failing to account for the roughly P4 million disbursed by the PSC to pay for his training under Petrov in Formia, Italy.