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PBA in disarray over Narvasa

Chito Narvasa Jun Mendoza

Board of Governors divided on fate of PBA commissioner

MANILA, Philippines — The smoldering feud between two powerful corporate blocs fueled by individual franchises which have taken sides came to a head yesterday on whether to terminate or retain the services of PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa.

The MVP-PLDT bloc and the San Miguel Beer group were divided on Narvasa’s fate with one side saying they have lost confidence in the PBA chief who has served his term and the other stressing that they cannot just act on “whims and caprices” and not in accordance with the by-laws and constitution of the league.

Narvasa himself said that in his two years as PBA commissioner, he has always ensured parity and transparency in all league decisions, particularly the trade transactions involving all PBA teams.

The controversy sent the league in crisis, reportedly sparked by the controversial KIA-San Miguel draft dealt involving No. 1 draftee Fil-German Christian Standhardinger and on the heels of probably the most successful PBA Finals between Ginebra and Meralco that drew record turnouts in seven games.

The bloc pushing for Narvasa’s ouster met yesterday and agreed to end his term of office and appointed Rickie Santos, the deputy commissioner for operations, as the officer-in-charge who will run the daily affairs of the league.

PBA vice chairman Ramoncito Fernandez, the incoming chair who presided over their emergency meeting at the PBA office, said Santos would be the league caretaker until they find a new commissioner in a search procedure to be undertaken soon.

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Fernandez of NLEX, Patrick Gregorio of TNT KaTropa, Al Panlilio of Meralco, Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine, Dickie Bachmann of Alaska Milk, Silliman Sy of Blackwater and Raymond Zorrilla of Phoenix Petroleum composed the majority group that made a resolution not to endorse and support the extension of Narvasa’s term.

No-shows in the emergency meeting were representatives from San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra, Star, Kia and GlobalPort, who are backing Narvasa.

But the PBA top honcho hit back at the disgruntled PBA board members, asserting that he serves at the pleasure of the PBA board, of which only a majority or two-thirds of the 12 team membership can remove him from his post.

“Of course, I can resign but only if majority of the league membership says so. We have rules in the PBA and we should not be held hostage to the whims and caprices of a few who just called for my removal because they cannot get what they want,” said Narvasa.

“The Office of the Commissioner is not about one man, but also of the league. Whether it’s me or anyone who becomes commissioner, the Commissioner’s Office should remain free to act in the best interests of the majority, including the fans,” Narvasa said.  

Narvasa said that the five members of the PBA bloc talked to him last Oct. 30 to pressure him to resign.

“They said I should resign. I came there to meet with Ramoncito Fernandez (NLEX) about the PBA direction in the coming season, but they were there and told me to resign. Fernandez even said that they would help me with the separation,” Narvasa revealed.

But Fernandez stressed, though, that they’re not expelling the commissioner “but letting his term expire.”

“We know that it takes a two-thirds vote to expel him. We are just letting his term expire at the end of the season because it also takes two-thirds to vote and renew the term of the commissioner,” Fernandez pointed out.

The incoming board chair said Narvasa’s decision on the KIA-San Miguel Beer trade is no longer the issue.

“It’s just as simple as a loss of confidence. I would like to simplify it that way,” he said.

On the failure of the five teams from the SMB bloc to attend yesterday’s meeting, Fernandez said: “We have tried to reach them out. We have called them, all of them. Unfortunately, no one was picking up the phone,” said Fernandez.

The position has been declared vacant and thus the need to appoint Santos as OIC.

“A formal search will be done to ensure the future of the PBA. And then the appointed commissioner will have to have the two-thirds vote to be officially appointed,” said Fernandez.

But in a statement, San Miguel, Star, Ginebra, GlobalPort and Kia representatives were unable to attend yesterday’s meeting as the notice was only given last Oct. 30, a violation of the seven-day rule for such.

“So without this clear majority, all changes being made by these renegade members are not allowed, including the appointment of Santos as OIC, and would not be binding on the whole board membership,” SMB governor Robert Non said.

He also said that the rules, policies and principles that govern the PBA are on Narvasa’s side.

“They cannot just act on a whim. What they are doing is not in accordance with our by-laws and constitution. All five teams – San Miguel, Ginebra, Star, Kia and Globalport – stand behind Commissioner Narvasa. He enjoys our full support and we have prevailed upon him to stay and do what is right,” Non said on behalf of the five teams.

The two blocs are set to see each other in their annual planning session set in Los Angeles on Nov. 10-14.

Is Narvasa still required to attend the meeting? “We don’t know what he will do. In my personal view, it is best for him to inhibit himself from the session,” said Fernandez.

Narvasa, however, will not go away yet, saying he’ll fight for the proper rules and procedures to be followed.

Being eased out by seven PBA board members but called by five other PBA governors to stay on, Narvasa said he’s staying on until the board resolves a contentious issue in the league by-laws regarding terminating and hiring a PBA commissioner.

“They’re all grown men. They will find a way. I hope that the board talks among themselves, and I want clarified on the matter, not for me, but for the future commissioners of the league,” said Narvasa.

“I know that I’m here only temporarily, but as long as the issue isn’t resolved, I will not abandon the PBA which we all love, all the Filipinos love,” Narvasa also said.

He said he’s heeding the call of his lawyers and the five PBA governors to fight for the procedures.

“I’m willing to resign as I don’t need this. I don’t want enemies and I want the people in the PBA happy. I’m ready to sacrifice. But for principle, then I must stay,” he said.

“The board must be able to determine what’s the right decision, what’s the right process, then come up with the right decision,” he added.

He agrees with the stand of the SMC-led bloc “to fight for the Office of the Commissioner.”

“What if they always bully someone that they don’t like, the Office of the Commissioner will weaken, and it would always be subject to who is the most powerful among team owners,” he said. “I’m fighting that nobody, however powerful they are, can frighten, threaten the Commissioner’s Office. It should be left alone.”

Meanwhile, observers said the impasse might affect the Gilas Pilipinas training which is supposed to start today. Gilas plays Japan in Tokyo on Nov. 24 then takes on Chinese Taipei at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Nov. 27 at the start of the World Cup home-and-away qualifying series.

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