The law vs rules vs freedom

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - December 11, 2015 - 9:00am

Once again, the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP) has successfully managed to exert its influence in protecting the rights of Filipino coaches by calling up a 2002 Court of Appeals ruling and blocking the appointment of Tab Baldwin as head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in UAAP men’s basketball. Over roughly a quarter of a century, the BCAP has proudly kept coaching slots in the PBA and other leagues out of the hands of foreigners. None of the leagues in question have any rules prescribing that only Filipinos may coach there. Let’s go over the points of the rulings.

The three branches of government each have a different role in promulgating laws in the country. The legislative branch (the Senate and Congress) draft, propose, discuss, amend and pass laws based on what certain members of Congress see as important needs of the general public. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to years. For example, the law making arnis the Philippine national sport took nine years to get through both houses of Congress. It’s sometimes a simple matter of horse-trading among lawmakers. If there is strong opposition to a bill in Congress, it may never even get to the crucial third reading. Meanwhile, in cases of emergency, the bill may be slipped under a pile of more urgent matters.

Meanwhile, the executive branch, from the President on down, provides some check and balance. The Chief Executive may veto a move by Congress, and issue executive orders which are laws in themselves. Expediency is often used as a reason for the President to ask for special emergency powers, but these are usually during times of disaster or unrest in the case of the Philippines. In some rare cases, the President may even grant citizenship, which is a debatable use of his powers. At the provincial or city level on down, different ordinances are passed, which sometimes cause confusion. Smoking and traffic are dealt with in vastly different ways in different places in the Philippines.

Lastly, the Judiciary or court system decides on the implementation or interpretation of laws, even, in some cases, their validity. It is a Court of Appeals ruling that prevents non-Filipinos from coaching in major basketball leagues in the Philippines. Ironically, there is no broader writ encompassing other sports.

Previous targets of the BCAP’s protection of Filipino coaches were Bobby Parks, Ron Jacobs, Tim Cone, Bill Bayno, Todd Purves, Rajko Toroman and Joe Ward. In the case of Cone, he had already been a permanent resident having grown up in the Philippines. But his residency had lapsed and wasn’t renewed when he was in the US for work before returning to the Philippines. In basketball as in many sports, coaching is a natural transition from playing. Many of those on that list eventually coached the Philippine team, or found work as consultants for PBA teams. To this date, former PBA players like Ricardo Brown and Alaska’s Sean Chambers are open to coaching in the Philippines, despite having successful non-basketball careers in the US.

It would help BCAP if there were a general membership nationwide, if all coaches were members. But sadly, coaching is such a tenuous profession that even some BCAP officials are not currently coaches. This also makes it difficult for them to be governed by the Games and Amusements Board, the government agency in charge of professional sports. Licenses issued by GAB are inexpensive and last a full year, but many coaches in various sports don’t even coach that long. Filipinos who coach overseas, however, receive three- or even five-year contracts. They ply their trade in places like Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Middle East and other countries, ironically unfettered by the same rules that prevent foreigners from coaching in the Philippines. They have the best of both worlds.

The original arguments for the previous cases of a similar nature remain the same. Coaching is still not a fully regulated profession in the Philippines, and it would be hard for coaches to say who is competent among them, and who is not. The fit between a coach’s personality and his players varies from case to case. Some great coaches bomb in certain situations. It’s hard to predict who will be successful where. Injury, management and other variables impact a coach’s performance, and they are often out of anyone’s control.

At any rate, over time, BCAP will find a way to fortify its position further. This will go a long way in simplifying matters.

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