I could have titled this “the mediation that never was”, and sports fans would have known exactly what I am referring to.
This is the second time I will be dwelling on this, simply because there were more developments and information that have come out. Of course, this is about the current battle raging between pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association, headed by the Philip Ella Juico.
The mediation is the one that Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez has been calling for, with his agency as the mediator.
And unfortunately, for the second time, Obiena again withdrew, saying PATAFA has acted in bad faith and used the supposedly mediation process to silence him. If you are not familiar with the issue on hand, it is about the delayed payments by Obiena to his training coach Vitaly Petrov.
Juico looks at this as estafa and wanted to file a case against Obiena, at the same time take him out of the national track and field team. This did not set well with Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino, who had the POC declare Juico as persona non grata and refuses now to recognize his presidency of PATAFA.
I have already said that my sympathies lie more with the athlete, than the sports official in general, even as I said both parties committed lapses in this case.
I have long been in corporate management work, with HR as my core competency, and this covers disciplining employees, just as Juico is disciplining Obiena.
In evaluating disciplinary cases, I always consider what I call mitigating and aggravating circumstances in which the disciplinary sanction on an employee ranges from a reprimand all the way to termination.
Why am I bringing this up now?
In relation to the Obiena- PATAFA case, I managed to read the entire questionnaire from PATAFA that Petrov answered earlier, though he did retract this afterwards after getting paid in full by the Obiena camp in November last year for the services he rendered the past few years (2018 to 2021).
But there were things that already came out from the letters that made me re-evaluate the case against Obiena for what it is worth, though there more questions that arose in my mind.
Among them is this nagging question whether the delay in payment to Petrov was intentionally delayed and that the training funds were used elsewhere.
I can understand a few months’ delay but not years.
Also, why the matter only emerged after years and did not catch the attention of both the PSC and the PATAFA. Does it mean lapses on the part these two bodies on the supposedly liquidation of funds by Obiena?
Applying what I mentioned earlier, the mitigating circumstances for Obiena are the following, he really should not have been the one managing the training funds, he simply is not an accountant even if you argue it is a relatively simple matter of paying and liquidating. He is a world-ranked pole vaulter, no. 5 in the world and should have been given more consideration and that in the end, the coach received everything due him after all.
The aggravating part for me would be the overly delayed payment, more so if true that Petrov was initially told there were no training funds available but there were.
If this were a company disciplinary case, believe me, it’s an easy case to decide on, assuming I get the answers to my questions.
For PATAFA, the mitigating circumstances would be the efforts made to unearth what has happened and its willingness to still sit down for mediation.
The aggravating part for me would be the way PATAFA handled the process, with more effort to keep it an internal matter, not to file an estafa case and drop the athlete from the national team.
Now remember, I have nothing to do with the case, I am simply expressing my personal opinion on it, and if you ask what would have been my decision on the matter, I still would not because the facts are not yet complete for me.
And that is the bottom line.