MANILA, June 2, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Despite a unanimous vote to suspend the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP), the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) isnít about to disrupt the smooth operations of the ongoing FIBA (Federation Internationale de Basketball)-Asia Champions Cup.

The BAP, as the countryís National Sports Association (NSA) for basketball, happens to be the lead agency in charge of organizing the Champions Cup. It was suspended by the POCís General Assembly in a formal vote last May 25, four days before the opening of the tournament.

To strip the BAP of its authority as the Champions Cupís host FIBA affiliate would have created a state of confusion. Substituting the BAP with another entity to organize the tournament wouldíve been not only impractical but also embarrassing to the host country. The Philippines has a bad enough reputation in the FIBA as a troublesome member nation perennially wracked by internal dissension.

So, in what seemed to be a gesture of tolerance, the POC designated troubleshooter Go Teng Kok to "oversee" the BAP in making sure there would be no disruption in staging the tournament. Apparently, the BAP is now in suspended animation.

The POCís gesture, however, may be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. How could a suspended NSA continue to operate as if to defy the POC?

When the Champions Cup reeled off at the Araneta Coliseum last Sunday, BAP officials were visibly in control of the tournament. BAP executive vice president Christian Tan formally welcomed the visitingdignitaries, including FIBA-Asia president Sheikh Saud Bin Ali Ali-Thani of Qatar and FIBA-Asia secretary-general Dato Yeoh Choo Hock of Malaysia, in the opening rites. BAP secretary-general Graham Lim moved around freely like there was no order for his deportation.

Functionaries wearing BAP T-shirts were all over the place, taking care of logistical arrangements and attending to every detail in staging the tournament.

Go showed up but didnít stay for the opening rites, obviously careful not to upstage or embarrass the BAP officials. He watched the first two games, conferred with the FIBA-Asia bigwigs in town and left before the start of the inaugural program.

Go explained his appointment was precipitated by POC president Jose Cojuangco, Jr.ís concern that the BAP may not be able to effectively operate the tournament.

"Kahiyaan na ito," said Go. "Ayaw na ayaw ni Mr. Cojuangco na mapahiya ang bansa natin kanya I was designated to oversee the BAP to make sure walang palpak sa hosting arrangements."

Go said Cojuangco was disturbed by reports that the BAP had not paid its FIBA dues for at least two years.

"I remember several years ago, I was asked by the BAP to pay for the FIBA fees and I gave $2,000," said Go. "I donít know how much the BAP owes now. But I was told baka hindi na necessary ang suspension by the POC, kasi it looks like FIBA will expel the BAP anyway because of non-payment of dues."

Because of the BAPís visible presence as the Champions Cup organizer, word spread like wildfire that FIBA would not recognize its suspension by the POC.

But Go said the talk is premature since FIBA has not convened to decide the BAPís fate. Besides, it would be crazy for FIBA to suspend the BAP in the middle of the Champions Cup.

Early last week, Cojuangco flew to Hong Kong to meet with FIBA president Carl Men Ky Ching and explain the POCís decision to suspend the BAP. He was accompanied by POC chairman Robert Aventajado, legal counsel Ding Tanjuatco, POC media affairs chief Joey Romasanta and Go.

In their meeting, Ching assured Cojuangco of FIBAís support for as long as the suspension was done according to law and the BAP was given due process.

"Ang sabi ni Mr. Ching, FIBA cannot do anything to go against the POC and it will not intervene since each country has its own rules and regulations," said Go. "FIBA, as the international federation, will abide by the POCís decision provided the Constitution and By-Laws were followed in deciding the suspension."

While in the former British Crown Colony, Ching introduced Cojuangco to the Hong Kong Olympic Committee president Timothy Folk whose family contributed $100 Million to the war chest for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Ching also took the visitors to the Royal Golf Club of Hong KongĖan exclusive association where the membership fee is $1 MillionĖfor dinner.

Go said Cojuangcoís priority is to fill the vacuum created by the BAPís suspension. The country needs an NSA for basketball to accredit the national team playing in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) qualifying tournament in Singapore this month and the FIBA-Asia Championships in Doha, Qatar, on Sept. 8-16. Thatís why Cojuangco is asking FIBA to recognize the POC "working committee" as the interim accrediting body while the BAP is under suspension.

The ultimate goal is to form a "superbody" as the NSA for basketball where the major stakeholders are represented like in the USA Basketball model. At the moment, the BAP is nothing more than an exclusive "boysí club" with no representation from the Philippine Basketball Association, Philippine Basketball League, UAAP and NCAA. The POCís aim is to rationalize the membership of the NSA for basketball. Whether the reformed NSA will be known as the BAP or something else is a secondary consideration. Whatís important is for the NSA to represent basketballís major stakeholders and function in the countryís best interest.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved