Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William “Butch” Ramirez is set to formally untangle the mess between EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa).
Ramirez, in fact, had already forwarded a Mediation Submission Agreement to both Obiena and the federation to formally start the quest for a lasting solution to their differences.
Once the Mediation Submission Agreement has been signed, it will initiate a mediation process, a mode of alternative dispute resolution, to assist both parties in resolving their dispute speedily and amicably.
The mediation agreement also aims to formalize the appointment of the mediator, the rules to be used, the language and place of the mediation.
Should there be no settlement within 30 days from the commencement of the mediation, the dispute would be resolved by arbitration.
“The role of a mediator is merely to facilitate communication, identify issues and help parties arrive at a settlement,” said Ramirez, who will take the role of the chief mediator.
“My role as a mediator is not to decide who is right or wrong. We are after a win-win solution for both sides. The goal is to preserve relationships of the disputing parties.”
Ramirez added that he is worried over the welfare of both Obiena and Patafa president Philip Ella Juico.
“I am worried about them both,” he said.
“EJ is carrying the burden all alone overseas, away from family and friends. I am also concerned about Mr. Juico’s health. The earlier we can sit down and talk, the earlier we can resolve this.”
According to a ranking PSC executive, PSC chairperson William “Butch” Ramirez had already talked to Obiena and Juico and they both agreed to come up with a win-win solution that will put an end to their differences.
In a board meeting last Wednesday, Ramirez stressed that he will do his best to resolve the matter, not only for Obiena’s athletic career but also for the country’s chances in major international competitions, including the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“As much as possible, we want to have a solution that will be acceptable to both EJ and Patafa. Yes, we have to protect EJ, but at the same time, we also have to respect and protect the autonomy of the NSA (national sports association),” the Daily Tribune source quoted Ramirez as saying.
“I’ve already talked to both EJ and Popoy (Juico) and they agreed to be subjected to mediation and will cooperate in finding a solution to this problem. So for us, the PSC, we have to be amenable to both of them and make sure that a win-win solution will be achieved.”
The source added that Ramirez is treating the incident as an eye-opener for them as well as to the 67 sports associations who are banking on government funding.
“We realized that for this kind of problem to be avoided, we should not give the athletes the burden of dealing with his coach’s administrative requirements,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for lack of authority from the PSC boss.
“Administrative matters like handling the salary of the coaches should be done by the federation and the PSC. We have to come up with a specific process to make sure that the incident involving EJ and Patafa will not happen again.”
“After all, we don’t want to cut Patafa funding. Track and field is a centerpiece sport with almost 50 gold medals at stake. As much as possible, we want to find a solution to this problem.”
Juico said he is willing to hold a dialogue with Obiena – the world No. 5 vaulter and holder of the Asian record.
He, however, has to respect the outcome of the investigation and the recommendation of the five-man administrative panel that is looking into the case.
“Whatever the PSC wants, we will follow,” Juico said.