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PSC clarifies earlier statement, says it's not taking EJ Obiena-PATAFA row lightly

The PSC clarified that despite Chairman Butch Ramirez's earlier statement, it is not taking the EJ Obiena-PATAFA row lightly. Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—The Philippine Sports Commission has essentially denied an alleged "hands-off approach" to the impasse between the Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Association and EJ Obiena.

In a statement on Wednesday, the PSC clarified that despite what Chairman Butch Ramirez said earlier in the week, it is taking the impasse seriously, even saying that it has already talked to both parties way before Ramirez issued his statement.

"On this issue between the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) and national athlete EJ Obiena, we assure everyone that we at the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) did not take the matter lightly. Even before issuing our previous statement that 'we shall intervene when appropriate,' we have already quietly started a series of separate dialogues with each of the concerned parties, with the quick and just resolution of the issue in mind," the PSC said.

Ramirez said on Sunday night that the PSC would only step in "when it is appropriate."

[Related Story: PSC ready to intervene in EJ Obiena-PATAFA row 'when it is appropriate']

However, the statement did not sit well with the Senate, and the legislative chamber recalled the PSC's budget the night after with Senator Pia Cayetano lashing out at the agency for what she called a "hands-off approach" to the issue.

[Related Story: Senate reconsiders PSC budget amid EJ Obiena-PATAFA row]

On Tuesday night, though, the budget has been reinstated in the Senate level after Ramirez met with Cayetano and fellow senator Joel Villanueva to clarify matters.

"He immediately recognized that what we did by taking the floor in supporting EJ is the right thing to do, and he actually thanked us for this opportunity to explain their position where they're coming from," Cayetano said during the hybrid plenary session.

Villanueva then assured that Ramirez and the rest of the PSC will do everything to resolve the issue.

"The chairman is committing himself that the entire PSC will do their part as they understand where EJ Obiena is coming from, the situation, and perhaps the anxiety that our national treasure is experiencing, and the chairman will do everything he can," Villanueva said.

The PSC made the assurance public through its statement, saying, "The PSC was created with the athletes in the heart of its being, to protect their welfare and ensure a conducive environment for sports excellence. We have been dedicated to fulfilling this mandate. We remain vigilant in the dispense of our tasks, part of which is protecting our national athletes and ensuring the proper use of any financial assistance given to any organization like the PATAFA."

The PSC then called on both PATAFA and Obiena not to post statements from hereon as it looks to resolve the row as soon as possible.

"While we wish for the matter to be handled with confidentiality, we are bound by duty to mediate and call both parties to the table in the interest of truth and arresting the damage this tussle has done on our country’s image in the international sporting world. We now demand the parties to refrain from issuing statements to the public and on social media. We hope the imposition of this moratorium will allow this proposed dialogue a chance to help all of us arrive at a proper resolution on this matter," the PSC further stated.

Obiena was the latest to issue a tirade on Tuesday, calling out PATAFA anew for suddenly shifting its allegations against him.

While he reiterated that he has paid his coach, Vitaly Petrov, on time, Obiena said there is nothing wrong if Petrov has been paid later than expected.

[Related Story: EJ Obiena hits out at PATAFA anew for 'shifting allegations']

The PSC now looks at an alternative dispute resolution in putting a rest to the issue, but the agency is ready to take drastic actions if the situation fails to dwindle soon.

"The PSC believes that an alternative dispute resolution is an efficient tool and alternative procedure for conflict resolution between the federation and the athlete. Should this option fail, we regret that the PSC shall be constrained to implement actions that would negatively redound to the concerned federation with regard to financial assistance. We shall not allow this to spoil the successful gains of the Philippines in sports. Let this year remain with the glorious glow of the golden victories of our sports heroes," the PSC said.

The PSC said it will be issuing an update “once a positive outcome of the dialogue and settlement of these issues between the parties involved are reached."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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