MANILA, February 20, 2004  (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - The ill-advised declaration of independence by the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) in a brash display of arrogance as the country’s recognized affiliate of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) could signal the death knell of the controversial administration of president Tiny Literal and secretary-general Graham Lim.

Because of Cebuana Lhuillier’s unconditional support to the BAP, Literal and Lim seem to be of the opinion that they can now do things on their own–without having to rely on the vast player resources of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and other leagues not under their control.

There is no question the BAP’s legitimacy as FIBA’s affiliate in the Philippines–for the moment. Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Celso Dayrit says as far as he’s concerned, the BAP remains the country’s national sports association (NSA) for basketball.

But Dayrit isn’t discounting the possibility of a shift in the wind. A group led by Nic Jorge has gone to court and after eight years, gained a ruling that legitimized his Basketball Association of the Philippines, Inc. (BAPI) as the official NSA for hoops. In effect, the court outlawed the BAP.

Jorge’s problem is two years ago, FIBA sent its secretary-general Patrick Baumann to Manila to supervise the election for BAP president in the wake of a leadership crisis. In that election, Literal won and subsequently appointed Lim as secretary-general.

Dayrit says the court ruling that favors the BAPI over the BAP is now being studied by POC lawyers and an opinion on which to recognize will be made soon–perhaps in one or two weeks.

Dayrit adds that he’s seeking guidance from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in light of the recent court decision outlawing the BAP. The IOC is to the FIBA what the POC is to the BAP.

Dayrit notes that the BAP’s recent declaration of independence has nothing to do with the question of its legitimacy or otherwise and the case brought by the BAPI to court. But he says it’s not entirely correct to ascribe full authority on the BAP to select players for the national team particularly in Olympic qualifying competitions.

"The POC has the power to look into and get involved in the selection of players for the ABC (Asian Basketball Confederation) Olympic qualifier because of its Olympic character," explains Dayrit. "The POC can take action against an NSA that deprives deserving Filipino athletes from participating in an important competition such as the ABC Olympic qualifier. The POC has the authority to sanction an NSA if it refuses to send the best Filipino athletes to such a competition."

Dayrit cautions the BAP of turning its back on the PBA. "The BAP should be careful in making decisions," he says. "Basketball is of national interest and if the POC believes the BAP will lead the country to an embarrassing participation, we will step in."

Dayrit says in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there is a real possibility that the Philippines could squeeze in as the second or third Asian qualifier in the 12-team basketball competitions. The Philippines has not played in Olympic basketball since 1972.

Dayrit says the country’s basketball community must be heard and listened to in determining whether or not the BAP is on the right track in declaring independence. "The voice must start within the basketball community," he says. "In the POC, we authorize an NSA if it is recognized by its international federation and it must give proof of successful and ongoing activities to develop the sport."

PBA commissioner Noli Eala says it’s unfortunate that the BAP has chosen to do things alone. As the country’s future in international basketball is on the line, Eala says the PBA will likely take the lead in organizing a superbody to regain prominence for the country as a serious international cage power–at least in Asia.

Cebuana Lhuillier appears to be the unwitting victim in this sordid affair. It has apparently been hoodwinked by demagogues into bankrolling a program that is doomed to failure without the support of the country’s major basketball leagues.

The "Tryouts Ng Bayan" program is commendable as a grassroots approach to development. But when it comes to formulating a plan of action for the future, the BAP must realize there is no substitute to unity with the PBA and the country’s other popular leagues.

Lim gained public sympathy because of his detractors’ inhuman attempts to deport him. But his recent proclamation of independence has only alienated himself and the BAP from the basketball mainstream. It’s a kiss of death for the BAP.

Postscript: The De La Salle University homecoming class of ’79 is hosting the inaugural alumni golf tournament named in honor of the late Bro. J. Benedict, FSC. The proceeds from the tournament will be for the benefit of the Bro. J. Benedict Scholarship Endowment Fund. The tournament will be played at the Manila Golf and Country Club using the System 36 format. This year, in anticipation of a high turn-out of golfing alumni, the tournament will be played with a choice of two playing days, Feb. 27 or March 1. Only the first 80 players to sign up or pre-pay the tournament fee will be accommodated per day. There will be awards for Class A, B, C, Seniors and Ladies divisions. Tee times are from 8 to 10 a.m. only. The major sponsors of the tournament are Globe Telecom, Diamond Motors, PCI Equitable Bank and American Homes. For more information, please call the De La Salle Alumni Association, telephone 523-6158.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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