The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) and pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena finally met in a Philippine Sports Commission-organized mediation on last March 7, with PSC chairperson William “Butch” Ramirez presiding.
But a solution has yet to unfold.
No details of the confidential online discussions have been available but Obiena shared with social media his regret over the collapse of the first attempt at reconciliation that may put his promising athletic career in great peril.
Olympian Obiena has qualified for the World Indoors, however, that could be his final indoor tournament of the season as he is not expected to see action in the 2022 World Indoor Athletics Championship due to lack of endorsement from his federation.
The deadline for the submission of entries in the prestigious tourney that is set from 18 to 20 March at the Stark Arena in Belgrade has already lapsed on March 7.
Assumably, the mediation is ongoing. But no announcement has yet been made for any further discussion between the parties.
Obiena has been at odds with PATAFA after the federation conducted an investigation over alleged failure of the Olympian to pay the salaries of his coach Vitaly Petrov.
The controversy has dragged on for four months, resulting in investigations by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In his capacity as Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, Senator Christopher Lawrence Bong Go encouraged both parties to continue talking while a mediation process is available.
Go tasked the Philippine Sports Commission to lead the process as this is their mandate and not just because they offered to do so. Last November, the Senate committee said it could recall the 2023 budget of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) after expressing dismay over the agency’s apparent hands-off stance from the controversial rift.
The senator asked “What has now happened to our battle cry ‘We win as one’ if we could not even resolve issues as one and unite and support our athletes as one people, under one nation?”
“Dahil ongoing pa ang mediation process, patuloy akong nananawagan sa PSC at sa dalawang panig na magusap at bilisan ang pagresolba ng gusot na ito. Ang kooperasyon ninyo ang kailangan para maayos ang lahat for the sake of our country, he added.
Philip Juico, erstwhile president of PATAFA, has been declared persona non-grata by the Philippine Olympic Committee general assembly last January for Obiena’s complaint for “harassment” of a Filipino Olympian.
POC president Abraham Tolentino said 36 members, headed by athletes’ commission representative and Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn F. Diaz, voted in favor of the withdrawal of recognition from Juico.
This came less than a month after the POC executive board upheld the recommendation of its ethics committee to withdraw recognition from Juico.
Tolentino said the POC could withdraw the decision anytime if both parties patch things up – “The General Assembly and executive board can always revisit re-granting recognition to Juico if Obiena withdraws his complaint.”
“We, Filipinos, will be deprived of two gold medals in the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games in 2022 and in Cambodia 2023, not to mention another one in the Asian Games also next year and most importantly, a representation in the Paris Olympics come 2024, if a win-win solution is not found.” Tolentino explained.
Bong Go said “Magkaisa po tayo at sana ay walang pulitika sa sports. Maging magandang ehemplo po sana tayo sa ating salita at gawa dahil maraming mga Pilipino ang tumitingala sa inyo.
“Umaasa ang buong sambayanan na magiging maganda ang kahihinatnan ng usapang ito para na rin sa kapakanan ng susunod na henerasyon ng mga atleta.”
Juico, however, has threatened to take the mediation to an arbitral tribunal abroad.
Even with the controversy, Obiena continued to compete in various meets in Europe where he has set new personal record.
The start of the mediation came a day after Obiena reset his new national record after clearing 5.91 meters in his second-place finish in a competition with France.