OCTOBER 11, 2006
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Noli Eala yesterday warned that the process to unify the country’s basketball landscape may turn into a wasteful political exercise, which could lead to a return to the "dark ages," if the sport’s stakeholders pursue a selfish agenda.

Eala described Joey Lina’s resignation as Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) president as "not an earth-shaking event" and said it shouldn’t derail the unification process.

The BAP Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on Lina’s replacement in a meeting today. Rumored to be among the candidates are Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Sen. Richard Gordon, Lito Alvarez, Lito Puyat and Wilson Young.

Although Lina resigned as BAP president, he opted to keep his seat in the 25-man interim Board of Trustees formed to oversee the operations of the newly-organized Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas (SBP) until June 2008. He also resigned from the three-man panel tasked to draft SBP’s Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws, validate member leagues and associations seeking membership in SBP and convene the first SBP National Congress.

The other members of the panel are Philippine Long Distance Tel. Co. chairman Manny Pangilinan and Pilipinas Basketball (PB) president Bernie Atienza.

BAP secretary-general Graham Lim is reportedly resigning from the SBP interim Board to give way to Lina’s replacement.

But Eala, a lawyer, said a vacancy in the Board is not filled by succession.

"A Trustee who resigns his position is not entitled to name his replacement," said Eala. "At the same time, Joey’s resignation from the three-man panel does not mean he can name a replacement. Besides, the panel’s work is almost over so I don’t think a replacement is necessary."

The three-man panel initially set a Sept. 30 deadline to complete its tasks with the provision that once accomplished, the Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) will lift the country’s suspension. The panel later moved the deadline to Oct. 10. Now, it appears the National Congress will be held on Oct. 21, the panel’s third self-imposed deadline.

Eala suggested inviting FIBA president Bob Elphinston, secretary-general Patrick Baumann and FIBA-Asia secretary-general Dato Yeoh Choo Hock to attend the National Congress so they can witness the dynamics of assembling the sport’s stakeholders.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said he would bring up Eala’s suggestion to Pangilinan.

"It would be good for the FIBA officials to come over and see for themselves the kind of people who are behind SBP," said a source. "While the POC has nothing to do with the Congress, I’m sure it would be a welcome development if Pere Miro, whom IOC (International Olympic Committee) president Dr. Jacques Rogge assigned to monitor the resolution of the Philippines’ suspension, and FIBA secretary-general emeritus Borislav Stankovic could join the visiting delegation."

Eala said it was unfair for Lina to blame the POC for prompting his resignation.

Lina claimed Cojuangco rejected his nomination as SBP president in a supposed unity ticket with Pangilinan as chairman and cited the POC’s alleged interference as the reason for his resignation.

But a POC source flatly denied Lina’s claim. Vargas also said a so-called unity ticket was never taken up with Pangilinan and no such discussion took place in a meeting last Tuesday, as claimed by Lina. The minutes of the Tuesday meeting, written by lawyer Marievic Anonuevo, do not verify Lina’s claim.

"I find it hard to believe that Mr. Pangilinan would support Lina as president after he issued a statement agreeing to become chairman and president," said a source.

Eala said only FIBA’s continuing recognition is what is keeping the BAP alive.

"As far as the POC is concerned, the BAP is a non-entity," said Eala. "Once FIBA withdraws recognition, it’s over for the BAP. If you look at what makes up the BAP, you will see that it has no real constituency. If FIBA is able to appreciate that the BAP stands for nothing, then maybe we can proceed."

Eala said under the terms of the joint communiqué signed in Tokyo last August, the BAP and PB will be collapsed for SBP to emerge as the unifying body.

"Lina was one of those who invited Mr. Pangilinan to join the three-man panel as the unifying force then he went against him," said a source. "We should be grateful to Mr. Panglinan for agreeing to sacrifice for the good of the country and the sport we all love."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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