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Is reconciliation possible?

The situation in the PBA board room remains tense. Lines of conflict have been drawn with accusations hurled and harsh words exchanged. But although feathers have been ruffled, reconciliation isn’t a remote possibility because deep in the heart of each PBA governor is a pure love of the pro league which has been a source of enjoyment, inspiration and excitement to millions of Filipinos all over the world.

Seven governors are opposing the extension of commissioner Chito Narvasa’s contract. They represent the three MVP franchises – TNT, Meralco and NLEX – and four independent teams – Rain Or Shine, Phoenix, Blackwater and Alaska. Five governors are in favor of retaining Narvasa and represent the three San Miguel Corp. franchises – San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra and Star – and two independent teams – GlobalPort and Kia. What triggered the division was Narvasa’s approval of the trade where Kia dealt its first round draft pick this year to San Miguel Beer for three seldom-used reserves and a 2019 first round slot. 

The seven governors, citing loss of trust and confidence, passed a resolution denying the renewal of Narvasa’s contract during a Board meeting at the PBA office last Thursday. PBA corporate secretary Melvin Mendoza attended the meeting but it was later pointed out there was lack of due notice to call the gathering as the By-Laws stipulate a prior period of at least seven days. The five governors backing Narvasa failed to attend. The seven governors also named PBA director of operations Rickie Santos as OIC on the assumption that Narvasa wouldn’t be retained. Santos’ appointment was eventually rescinded to keep the status quo, meaning Narvasa is still authorized to sign checks and approve trades as commissioner.

  Since last Thursday, two trades have been approved by Narvasa. The first involved GlobalPort trading the signing rights to rookies Robbie Herndon of San Francisco State and Gian Abrigo of Adamson to Star for the signing rights to rookies Lervin Flores of Arellano, Joseph Gabayni of Lyceum and Julian Sargent of La Salle. The second sent veteran Michael Miranda from Phoenix to NLEX for the Road Warriors’ 2018 second round pick. Another trade involving two recent first round picks and a veteran is also in the works but papers have yet to be submitted to the commissioner for approval. So it looks like business as usual in the PBA.

This Friday, the PBA governors and the PBA management committee will travel to Los Angeles for the pro league’s yearly planning session. The PBA institutionalized the staging of the planning session in a foreign country during former commissioner Noli Eala’s administration in 2005 so this is the 12th straight year that the annual gathering will be held abroad. Among the countries where the PBA previously held its planning session were Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Spain during the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Narvasa will join the group in LA and face the seven governors opposed to his retention for the first time since their aborted lunch meeting at UCC Corinthian Hills last week. Will the seven governors continue to press for his removal? Former PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios said under the By-Laws, the commissioner’s term is considered expired at the end of every season and it will require a 2/3 vote for his reappointment. However, a contrary interpretation is a 2/3 vote is necessary only when expelling a commissioner or appointing a new one. Whichever interpretation of the rule is valid may be a bone of contention in LA.

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The common feeling among the governors is sadness because the rift within the Board has been made public, causing a wave of disenchantment among the PBA’s multitude of fans. The disunity has put in serious jeopardy the future of the PBA which is a source of livelihood for thousands. Hopefully, it is the love for the the league that will drive the 12 governors to regroup and find a way to reconcile. 

In a press conference last week, Narvasa said if there was any objection to his approval of the Kia-San Miguel Beer trade, it could’ve been elevated to the Board for review without resorting to extra-judicial measures. He said the same window of recourse was available to the San Miguel group when Blackwater traded its first round pick to TNT in 2015 but the deal went through without objection. 

In LA, the future of the PBA hangs in the balance and will depend on the governors resolving issues of conflict at the Board level. For sure, it won’t be easy to agree on a compromise or a settlement. It could involve a lot of swallowing of pride, self-sacrifice and humbling but all that will be worth the effort if only to preserve the future of the PBA and keep it alive for the fans. The state of crisis isn’t beyond recall. If the governors set their mind to it, they could become the heroes and saviors of the league that millions love.

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