Sports budget may be affected by Obiena-PATAFA feud, Ramirez warns

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2022 05:54 PM

EJ Obiena juico

MANILA, Philippines -- The budget meant for the country's participation in international sports events this year may be in peril if the funding dispute between pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the PATAFA is not peacefully resolved.

This was the warning issued by Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, as he continued to urge both parties to submit to mediation.

Obiena, a Tokyo Olympian, is facing allegations of misappropriation of funds by his own national sports association, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA). The PATAFA initially intended to drop Obiena from its national training pool and file an estafa case against him, though those actions have been put on hold.

"Sports is in question, in the midst of a pandemic, where we need money, in the midst of Typhoon Odette," Ramirez said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday. "So many Filipinos are hungry -- no shelter, no food, no medicines, and yet we will be spending billions of money for our national elite athletes."

Ramirez stressed that if the PATAFA and Obiena cannot resolve their differences, he will personally call on Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to discuss the budget given for sporting events this year.

The PSC received a budget of P515 million from Congress this year to fund the Filipino athletes' participation in international events, including the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games.

"If there is no peace on the elite athletes, I will communicate to the Office of the President and to Congress that this money has proper purpose," said Ramirez, adding that the money can be used in the fight against COVID-19 as well as for relief efforts in Visayas and Mindanao after the onslaught of Typhoon Odette.

"Bakit pa natin ipipilit 'to, na nagaaway-away tayo?" he also said. "Maraming namamatay sa COVID, at maraming namamatay sa typhoon at maraming walang pera ngayon. Tapos here we are, we spend billions at the PSC."

"I'm very clear on my position. 'Pag hindi kayo magkasundo, pwedeng kausapin ko ang President, through the Executive Secretary, na, 'Ano ba gawin natin dito sa pera? Balik ba natin 'to sa Treasury, kasi hindi man magkasundo.' Pwede," Ramirez stressed.

"I think 'yun namang mga sikat na atleta, kayang-kaya nilang mag-raise ng mga pera eh, and they have been doing it without us knowing it eh."

William Ramirez
PSC Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez. File photo.

The PSC has already signed an agreement with the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. to help in mediating between Obiena and the PATAFA.

As of Tuesday, neither party has yet to formally agree to mediation, although Ramirez is optimistic that both Obiena and the PATAFA will eventually submit to the process.

He has also called on all involved to display humility in order to finally resolve the issue that has put local sports in turmoil for a couple of months now.

"Itong mediation na ginagawa namin, at itong dispute na ito, without humility, without generosity, respect and forgiveness, it's impossible to resolve the disputes, even if PDRC will sit down with us with their expertise on mediation," said Ramirez.

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