IN what could be construed as government avoiding meddling into purely national sports association (NSA) affairs, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) gave Ernest John “EJ” Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) a mediation submission agreement to help resolve the burning issue that has tainted Philippine sports even on the global stage.

But to absolutely solve the  crisis, both parties—Obiena and Patafa—must agree to the mediation agreement, which, in the end, is non-binding although it would serve as a platform that could ease the tension and negative effects of the dispute.

“The role of the mediator is merely to facilitate communication, identify issues and help the parties arrive at a settlement,” PSC Chairman William Ramirez said in a statement. “My role as 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.”

The crisis stemmed from the Patafa telling Obiena to explain why he hasn’t paid his Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov in earnest. The federation directive was supposed to be confidential but was leaked to media, spurring an exchange of claims by both parties.

From what was described as first a non-payment issue, the Patafa shifted its inquiry into Obiena as a late payment. Obiena and Petrov went online on Sunday to quell Patafa’s accusation.

Ramirez said that he expects both parties to signify their agreement by signing the document.

“Once the mediation submission agreement is signed, it will initiate the mediation process, a mode of alternative dispute resolution to assist the parties in resolving their dispute speedily and amicably,” the PSC statement added.

Government intervention into purely NSA affairs is taboo in the Olympic Movement. The International Olympic Committee has fervently enforced and protected this initiative to the extent that it suspends national Olympic committees which cross the line on non-government intervention.

“The mediation agreement aims to formalize the appointment of the mediator, the rules to be used, the language and place of mediation,” the PSC said. “The agreement also provides that, in case there is no settlement within 30 calendar days from commencement of the mediation, the dispute shall be finally resolved by arbitration.”

The PSC added: “This is the second step of the PSC’s action on the matter. After the said mediation efforts, the PSC Board will evaluate the facts to decide its next course of action.”

The Senate withheld approving the PSC’s 2022 budget unless the government sports agency help solve the Obiena-Patafa row.

Ramirez said he is worried about the crisis and expressed hopes that the issue be settled soon.

“I am worried about them both. EJ is carrying this burden all alone overseas, away from family and friends. I am concerned about Mr. Juico’s health,” he said. “The earlier we can sit down and talk, the earlier we can resolve this.”

The PSC also told both sides to refrain from going to mainstream and social media to air their grievances.

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