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Obiena case exposes need for Ombudsman-PSC

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 05:10 AM January 14, 2022
EJ Obiena at the stands after an attempt in the men's pole vault qualification

A simple case of liquidation blew up into a major controversy, opening the PSC’s eyes to the need for an independent problem solver in sports. —INQUIRER PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–

The recent controversy between pole vault star EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) has clued in Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chair William Ramirez on what needs to be done to avoid a similar public feud in the future.

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“What happened between EJ and Patafa is not [all] bad. This is a good starting point that we should have a sports ombudsman,’’ said Ramirez on Thursday.

Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom are just some of the nations whose governments have installed a sports ombudsman of their own to maintain public confidence that sports are conducted ethically.

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The establishment of a national sports ombudsman can likewise function to resolve disputes among the athletes, coaches, officials and stakeholders in sports independently from the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).

The PSC has offered mediation to both the Patafa and Obiena with the track and field association formally agreeing to participate in the peacemaking process.

“We are just waiting for [the signature of] EJ as we continue to pursue mediation,’’ said Ramirez.

Liquidation

Patafa and Obiena, the Tokyo Olympian who rose to No. 6 in the world ranking, are embroiled in a controversy over liquidation of public funds meant for the salary of Obiena’s coach, Vitaly Petrov.

Obiena, who initially agreed to mediation but has not signed the mediation agreement yet, had reached out to the PSC recently and asked for assistance for his medical expenses. Obiena needed follow-up surgery to clean his rehabilitated knee and remove a screw from a previous surgery.

The surgery was successful and Obiena thanked the PSC for signing off on financial assistance for the operation.

Ramirez said the PSC is also processing Obiena’s cash incentive after breaking the Philippine and Asian record with a 5.93-meter jump in September in a tournament in Austria.

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The PSC has hired the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. (PDRC) to help settle the rift amicably through mediation after Obiena and Patafa engaged in a scathing war of words over the past two months stemming from what the PSC emphasized as a “simple liquidation case.’’

Ramirez emphasized that lessons have been learned from the Obiena-Patafa controversy, citing the need to update and amend Republic Act No. 6847 or the law that created the PSC as well as maintaining proper governance within the national sports associations (NSAs).

Chief mediator

The PSC, the government arm in sports, funds the training and competitions of athletes endorsed by these NSAs.

“There’s no perfect organization. The PSC is seeking peace where peace is elusive. It requires science, experience and skills, especially integrity,’’ said Ramirez.

Ramirez will be the chief mediator with the top lawyers of the PDRC assisting him and PSC Executive Director lawyer Guillermo Iroy throughout the entire process of mediation.

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TAGS: EJ Obiena, Patafa
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