MANILA, February 15, 2006
(STAR) SPORT LANG TAYO By Tommy Manotoc - When I opened the newspapers last week and read that La Salle filed a one-year leave of absence from the UAAP basketball league in the aftermath of its findings on its players–Mark Benitez and Tim Gatchalian–I somehow felt that my Alma Mater was indeed taking the painful yet honorable stand in order to begin to put some sort of closure on the matter.

After reading excerpts from La Salle’s statement, I realized that perhaps, it really does take time for one institution to come to a decision that would benefit the greater majority–meaning not just La Salle, but the entire UAAP league.

La Salle had publicly revealed what it had found out about these two players and had subsequently returned its 2004 championship trophy to signify its sincerity. Going the extra mile and withdrawing for a year from basketball–a sport in its program that has proven to be in need of overhauling–was a move in the direction of internal reform, which I believe should be emulated.

La Salle’s case cannot be compared with that of Adamson, one of whose basketball players was actually found to be ineligible. For whatever reason La Salle may have had, the school did not wait to be caught but went ahead to make its findings public and return its trophy.

In order for everyone to really benefit from rules that are made and passed, the spirit behind the rule must first be defined.

In sports, many are of the belief that rules are made to punish and penalize the player. I am of the opinion that they are made in order to lead the player toward the path of fair play and high moral ground. In filing a one-year leave of absence in basketball, I feel that La Salle has shown its intention to take this path.

Hardly anyone is in possession of a clear slate when it comes to matters such as what La Salle is going through. Yet La Salle’s experience has given all of us reason to look at what kind of spirit the entire league may actually be fostering. Everyone who is in some way a part of the league–board member, institution, player and spectator–has contributed to what it has become. Some have come forward, some have been caught, and others have gotten lucky.

Returning the trophy and requesting a one-year leave of absence in basketball only from the UAAP league does not erase what La Salle may have done. However, I feel that such a move clearly reflects that the La Salle administrators are ready and willing to make assessment of what is happening within their institution. This may have led them to this point of reckoning and motivated them to make the necessary changes to prevent this from happening again. (I have also heard that the school will be helping Gatchalian pick up the pieces.)

On the other hand, the investigation by the UAAP committee does not seem to have hit the right note. From what I gather, the people who are actually responsible for the La Salle fiasco are still around, and are in fact connected with other UAAP member-schools. This seems to be common knowledge to those in the know, except the UAAP Board. Its members seem to be waiting for the go-signal from one supposedly powerful and influential member.

If this is found out to be true, my Alma Mater should perhaps altogether reconsider being part of this league. This may in fact be another issue that this entire matter has brought about.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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