THE Senate late Tuesday declared “re-submitted” to the plenary the 2022 budget of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) after its chairman William Ramirez assured lawmakers they would, among others, move to prevent further “harassment” of national athlete Ernest John “EJ” Obiena and actively intervene for a satisfactory resolution of the Olympian pole-vaulter’s rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa).
Ramirez personally appeared at the Senate’s hybrid session and sat behind PSC budget sponsor Senator Joel Villanueva, who conveyed the assurances he gave to Senator Pia Cayetano.
Cayetano had earlier denounced PSC’s distancing itself from the row, leaving it up to the national sports association (NSA) Patafa and the beleaguered athlete to settle the matter among themselves. She then moved to recall the PSC budget and compel Ramirez to go to the Senate and explain the PSC’s tack, a motion approved by the plenary late Monday night.
Cayetano asked Ramirez, through Villanueva, for at least three modes of action the PSC will commit to undertake, and the PSC chief acceded to these:
1. The PSC will make sure to “stop the harassment” of Obiena while the investigations by the Patafa and the Philippine Olympics Committee’s ethics panel are ongoing,
2. The PSC will now put into place better processes so that all athletes who have to train abroad will get assistance in doing administrative work, such as doing all liquidation of funds entirely on their own, which overburdens them with multitasking while training hard for long hours.
3. The PSC will be step in, in case any other athlete is similarly treated, and not leave serious conflicts entirely with NSAs.
Cayetano noted that “EJ had to serve as his own PA, accountant, etc.” and in fact, he said on Monday he had repeatedly asked PATAFA as the NSA to directly pay the trainers, coaches and other people involved in honing athletes, and not to pass on this task to him.
Villanueva informed his peers that “the chairman reiterates his commitment to Senator Pia that this will be done.”
Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the athletes definitely need help, or “support services,” in doing the non-athletic stuff like liquidating expenses, noting, “liquidation is no easy task—you have to collect all receipts, to make a balance…”
Cayetano replied that, “it’s okay if he was just asked to liquidate—but he was already accused of embezzlement” over the alleged nonpayment of the salaries of his Ukrainian trainer, who said in a press briefing on Sunday he had already been paid in full.
But the damage had been done, as Obiena, hurt by the PATAFA’s earlier use of the word embezzlement, said he might abruptly end his career as soon as he can clear his name.
“Even thick-faced politicians would be horrified,” if they are prematurely accused of embezzlement when the problem is delay in liquidation, Cayetano said, partly in Filipino.
“I hope all the Filipino athletes, those who have brought us honor . . . will hear that,” Cayetano remarked.
Villanueva also announced Ramirez’s plan to issue a statement on PSC’s next moves at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Cayetano also revealed that after the Senate approved her motion to reconsider the PSC budget late Monday, “EJ actually called Mark Velasco,” the chief of staff of PSC, conveying regret that they had been dragged into the fray.
“EJ even reached out to Mark and apologized that the budget is being recalled” because of his case, Cayetano disclosed, adding, “napakaganda ng pagpapalaki ng batang ito [This young man was brought up so well].”