EJ Obiena (left) and Vitaly Petrov (right) review their game plan in the pole vault competition final at the Tokyo Olympics. —PHOTO BY FRANCIS TJ OCHOA
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has started to take action to bridge the gap between pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and his federation, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) through mediation, which could also go to the bottom of the controversy that has rocked the country’s sports scene.
PSC President William “Butch” Ramirez forwarded a “Mediation Submission Agreement” to both parties, confident that they will sign the document to initiate the process – an alternative dispute resolution method to help the parties resolve their issues. resolve their dispute quickly and amicably.
“The role of the mediator is simply to facilitate communication, identify problems and help the parties reach a settlement. My role as a mediator is not to decide who is right or wrong; we are looking for a win-win solution for both parties, ”said Ramirez.
While Ramirez is adamant that he won’t find fault, mediation could end up undoing all speculation about the source of the conflict between Obiena and Patafa, especially with the star athlete saying the only solution to the controversy would be the erasure of his name.
A source, who provided the Inquirer with extensive information on the matter but declined to be named because no official meeting has taken place between the warring parties, said an issue would be central to the resolution of the case: wind-up reports stating that he had paid legendary pole vault coach Vitaly Petrov his monthly membership fee of around 2,000 euros when no payment had yet been made?
Sources said Patafa had liquidation documents indicating that Petrov had already paid, which would put Obiena, who admitted he was behind in payments to Petrov due to his busy training and competition schedule, in a dead end because it would mean he falsified documents.
The world of explanation
But if Obiena has not filed distorted reports, then the Patafa will have a world of explanations to make, since it has become apparent that the Olympian and world number one. The 5th pole vaulter had already paid his trainer in full. Petrov appeared with Obiena at the online press conference, supporting his ward’s claim that he had been paid in full.
The Inquirer also reported earlier that Obiena had already paid Petrov in three installments, on November 4, 5 and 9 – the last payment made almost a week before Patafa launched two official notes accusing Obiena, among others, of d ” having “falsified the liquidations submitted to the Patafa” and using “the government funds requested to support your training since 2018” differently from the “objectives for which it was intended …”
Obiena hit back at Patafa at a press conference, alluding to his retirement after accusing the federation of charging him with “embezzlement” and “theft”. Patafa’s memos did not mention either of the two words, but they asked Obiena to return the 85,000 euros (approximately 4.8 million pesos) in financial aid that was intended for him and that was intended for Petrov, adding that the federation would freeze any additional financial assistance. pending reimbursement of the amount.
The mediation agreement will formalize the official designation of the mediator, the rules to be applied, the language to be used and the place where the arbitration will take place.
In the event that no settlement is found within 30 calendar days from the start of mediation, the dispute will be resolved by arbitration.
The PSC’s action follows the Senate’s decision to freeze the agency’s annual budget in response to the controversy and until the agency can resolve the issue – a development which, according to the head of the weightlifting and former PSC commissioner Monico Puentevella could lead to the country’s suspension from key international fixtures.
“A word of warning. In case the PSC, who [the Senate has] blamed for the lack of support to a single athlete, interferes with Patafa on this poor internal communication between the official and his athlete, this would be interpreted by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) as government interference, ” Puentevella said. “This could potentially suspend the Philippines’ participation in the Olympics, in the event that a formal complaint is sent for review.”
Preserving the relationship
And with the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) planning its own investigation, an official communication on the matter sent to the IOC is no exaggeration.
Puentevella slammed the Senate’s decision to freeze the PSC budget, calling the decision to burn “the whole house” while “trying to find a rat”.
Ramirez did not address the Senate decision and said his concerns focused more on the personalities involved.
“The aim is to preserve the relations of the parties in conflict. I worry about them both. EJ carries this burden on his own abroad, away from family and friends, ” Ramirez said.
“I am also concerned for the health of Mr. (Philip) Juico. The sooner we can sit down and talk, the sooner we can solve this problem. ”
Obiena is the country’s top athletics star, the Asian champion and the only one from the continent to feature in the world’s top 10 pole vaulters.
The controversy led him to consider retirement, claiming that Patafa no longer wants him in the national team.
Obiena’s claim alarmed POC President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, who vowed to fix the issue so that the University of Santo Tomas product could focus on getting to the Olympic Games podium. of Paris 2024.
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