PSC: EJ Obiena signature only thing needed for mediation with Patafa to begin
Half of the solution to the athletics controversy is in place.
That is if you asked the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), which has received formal papers from the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) indicating the federation’s willingness to undergo mediation.
It now awaits EJ Obiena’s move.
“We will wait for EJ,” PSC Chair Butch Ramirez said on Wednesday. “Only Patafa submitted its mediation papers yesterday.”
Obiena could not be reached for comment at press time. According to Ramirez, the Tokyo Olympian has already verbally indicated his willingness to undergo mediation, but has yet to affix his signature on mediation papers transmitted to him by the PSC.
Mediation seems to be the last resort to heal the rift between the star pole vaulter and his national federation, a war that started with what Ramirez said was merely a simple liquidation problem. The Patafa had accused Obiena of misappropriating public funds meant for the salary of his coach, Vitaly Petrov, and indicating in his liquidation reports that he had already done so.
Obiena fired back at the Patafa, saying that while he was indeed behind in payments to Petrov, he did not misuse the funds. Obiena also denied filing false liquidation reports on his financial assistance.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) has already reached its own resolution, acting on a complaint filed by Obiena over Patafa’s alleged harassment of him. The Olympic body’s ethics committee found that Patafa president Philip Ella Juico mismanaged the controversy and declared him persona non grata, a resolution still awaiting ratification from the general assembly.
POC president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, however, has said he was willing to hold off on making the ethics’ committee’s recommendation official pending the PSC’s resolution of the issue.
In a letter addressed to Ramirez and signed by board member Datu Yusoph Mama, the Patafa board of trustees has nominated Juico, lawyer Aldrin Cabiles and Alfonso Sta. Clara as representatives to the PSC mediation.
In submitting itself to mediation, the Patafa board has agreed to defer indefinitely its decision to remove Obiena from the national track and field roster based on the recommendations of its fact-finding report.
“Give mediation a chance. This will not end if they don’t sit down,’’ said Ramirez.
The PSC has hired the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center (PDRC) to help settle the rift, but Ramirez will head the mediation panel. Lawyers of the PDRC and PSC executive director Guillermo Iroy, a lawyer, will make up the panel.
“We don’t want to leave the PSC with this dispute hanging. Let us resolve this problem with the Olympic ideals of excellence, respect, friendship and understanding,’’ said Ramirez.
Budget at stake
Much is at stake if no agreement has been reached before the present PSC administration steps down on June 30 and that could affect even the budget of the national team to the coming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
Ramirez said the appropriated P515 million for the international competitions of elite athletes this year could be used instead for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and victims of Typhoon “Odette.”
“The PSC and my board are seeking for peace, that’s why we are not taking sides. We are the people’s representative. Money is spent for the athletes, the NSAs (national sports associations) and POC whenever they participate in the SEA Games, Asian Games and the Olympics. It’s people’s money,’’ said Ramirez.
Sources said the PSC already has copies of Obiena’s liquidation, which will go through the scrutiny of the PSC accounting office and the Commission on Audit. This was confirmed by another source, who added that the auditors will zero in on payment dates listed in the liquidation reports.