By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
The much-publicized feud between the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association and its star athlete – pole vaulter EJ Obiena – was downright ugly.
Then it became a national issue, forcing several senators to dip their hands into it – a development that was not welcomed by some former sports officials, claiming it could have touched a nerve and could subsequently earn the ire of the all-powerful International Olympic Committee (IOC).
But thanks to Philippine Sports Commission Chairman Butch Ramirez, the cliché that all’s well that ends well happened once again in Philippine sports as the Patafa – headed by Popoy Juico – and Obiena finally reached an agreement Wednesday following the fifth and final mediation proceeding.
The beauty of the reconciliation is that Obiena can now represent the country in any international tournaments, including the coming Hanoi SEA Games this May.
In a statement, the PSC announced that “both parties have agreed to a settlement and the proceedings ended successfully.”
The Patafa has also agreed to endorse Obiena to the World Outdoor Athletics in Oregon, United States in July.
Both parties have also agreed that endorsement for Obiena’s participation in future competitions “will be subject to the usual rules and regulations of the Patafa, as observed for the participation of all national athletes.”
Ramirez, meanwhile, thanked the Office of the Solicitor General thru Assistant Solicitor General Justice Bernard Hernandez, and the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. through its Executive Director Atty. Arleo Magtibay and member, Atty. Charlie Ho for their expertise, guidance, and support to the historic mediation proceedings.
Ramirez also credited the PSC Mediation team led by Executive Director Atty. Guillermo B. Iroy, Jr.
After the fifth session,Juico, Obiena and Ramirez met in a private virtual room with Obiena expressing his apologies to the PATAFA, its board members and his teammates.
“Both have assured each other of forgiveness, to start anew and start over,” the statement read.
“Humility really played a big part in this process. The decision to enter into this process was their first step towards a successful resolution,” Ramirez said.
All information discussed and disclosed in the said mediation is confidential as agreed by all parties.
Patafa and Obiena started their rift in October when the national governing body in the sport accused the world-class pole vaulter of misusing the government funds that were intended for his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.
This led to Juico being declared as “persona non grata” by the Philippine Olympic Committee and later on the POC Executive Board’s suspension of Patafa that was deferred during Wednesday’s General Assembly, and Obiena’s initial non-inclusion to the SEAG-bound national team.