MANILA, Philippines – Embattled pole vault star EJ Obiena is now open to a mediation between him and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) headed by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), following a Senate inquiry on Monday, February 7.
During a five-hour session where both sides were allowed to present their sides in the long-standing rift, the Senate Committee on Sports joint with Committee on Finance urged PATAFA to reinstate Obiena to the national team pool as a sign of “good faith.”
Obiena, who had previously backed off PSC’s offer of mediation due to PATAFA allegedly acting in “bad faith,” finally softened his stance after getting assurances from the Senate and his national sports association (NSA).
“I am all in when it comes to that mediation, and I trust this Senate, as multiple senators have stated that it’s the best way, of course,” he said. “But my only take is, I believe, going into mediation, there should be a sign of reconciliation, a sign that they actually want this.”
“My understanding, putting me back as a national team member, I believe that is, as Senator [Francis] Tolentino said, a sign of good faith. I have said my piece, and I am more than willing to put this aside, move on, continue, and hopefully, be able to train and compete for the Philippines in the next few years,” he continued.
Meanwhile, PATAFA clarified that reinstatement is indeed something it is willing to consider, which is why it suspended its motion to expel Obiena from the NSA and the national team pool in the first place to give way for PSC’s mediation.
“Yes, we would like to go, even by tomorrow. [PATAFA] president (Philip) Juico is willing to have a mediation,” said PATAFA chairman Rufus Ramirez. “As to reinstatement, of course that will be considered in the mediation.”
However, the matter of reinstatement is only a small part of the months-long row between the two sides.
In his previous statement detailing why he refused mediation, Obiena alleged that PATAFA was gunning for mediation to “silence” him and “keep the truth hidden” regarding his well-publicized issues with funding and liquidation.
Obiena has maintained that PATAFA conducted a witch hunt to “manipulate people” into believing affidavits by his coach Vitaly Petrov and Ukrainian pole vault great Sergey Bubka.
Meanwhile, PATAFA maintained its resolve to expel Obiena due to alleged misappropriation and falsified documents of the said funds, recommended the termination of Petrov as national team coach, and declared Obiena’s backer James Lafferty as persona non grata.
All these motions have since been put on hold to give way to the mediation, and Obiena’s change of heart on Monday may finally set in motion a way to mutual peace for all parties concerned.
Present in the Senate inquiry were Senators Tolentino, Christopher “Bong” Go, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, and Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.
PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, Philippine Olympic Commitee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, and Philippine Weightlifting Association president Monico Puentevella were also among the resource speakers of the day’s session. – Rappler.com
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