No headhunters for now
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 27, 2017 - 4:00pm

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said the other day the Board of Governors is not inclined to contract a headhunting agency in the search for a new commissioner. At the moment, he’s gathering names of possible candidates on an informal basis from PBA governors then when the Board convenes on the last Thursday of next month, they’ll be reviewed.

“The Board will put up the criteria for selection,” he said. “We’ll look at the options. If there’s a need to hire a headhunter, we’ll consider it later. Obviously, we’ll need to scrutinize the backgrounds of each candidate. There will be an interview process. My goal is before the start of the second conference, we will have made a choice. If we can do it sooner, why not?”

Vargas said PBA OIC Willie Marcial can’t wait to go back to his old job as director of communications and external affairs. Marcial was thrust into the hot seat with commissioner Chito Narvasa announcing his exit on Dec. 31. PBA director of operations Rickie Santos would’ve been named OIC instead but suffered a stroke and is now recovering in the hospital. From all indications, Marcial is doing a Class A job as OIC, moving the league forward after an offseason leadership crisis.

Vargas said aside from appointing a new commissioner, the Board is prioritizing the review of the PBA’s Constitution and By-Laws. The plan is to designate three individuals to form a review panel, none from PBA management nor the Board. “We need an odd number, like three,” said Vargas. “The Board will choose who the members are and give the marching orders.”

With no clear provision for the extension of the commissioner’s term, the leadership crisis took time to resolve. Under the 2010 By-Laws, a 2/3 vote from the Board is required to expel the commissioner and a similar 2/3 vote is needed to appoint one. It is silent on a vote for extending or renewing the commissioner’s term. Under the 2015 By-Laws, the positions of chief executive officer and chief operating officer were given a tenure of one year with the Board’s option to renew. The intention was for Chito Salud, then commissioner, to act as CEO and Narvasa as COO but the plan was scuttled to retain the commissioner as the man in charge. Salud eventually resigned and Narvasa was designated commissioner. The 2015 By-Laws had no provision for a commissioner’s term.

Since seven governors opposed Narvasa’s extension, they were one vote short of the 2/3 required for expulsion. Five governors were in favor of retaining Narvasa. Because no vote is stipulated for an extension or renewal in the By-Laws, the issue created confusion. The PBA Board couldn’t muster a majority to attend a planning session in Los Angeles and only a minority went on the recent trip with Narvasa. No session was called during the outing.

It took Vargas to regroup the Board and reach out to Narvasa for a settlement. A banker, Narvasa never coveted the position and only came on board because of his love for the game and he couldn’t deny the governors who asked him to take over from Salud.

“We tried to assuage Chito’s hurts,” said Vargas. “Another former PBA chairman Pato Gregorio turned out to be a miracle worker as he wrote a letter to Chito, apologizing for the pain this had caused him and his family and appealing to his love for the PBA and the fans to find a solution to the crisis.” As a family, the PBA locked arms, came together and ended the impasse.

Serving as commissioner is no easy job. It involves a lot of hard work and long hours. The commissioner’s job is a balancing act, like walking on a tightrope, to make sure he stands neutral in deciding what is best for the league. The only side he favors is the league, not any team, not any player. He must be respected by all the governors for his integrity, fairness, wisdom, ability to communicate, knowledge of the game, passion for the sport, commitment to the fans and management skills.

There are a few good men who fit the bill. One is Gregorio who has experience in the PBA and is a professional executive. Another is Salud if he’s inclined to become the first-ever two-term commissioner. Lawyer Rebo Saguisag is also an option with an untainted background as UAAP commissioner and executive director. Saguisag earned a sports management degree at UP before taking up law at Ateneo. Other names mentioned as candidates are former MBA and UAAP commissioner Chito Loyzaga, lawyer and broadcaster Charlie Cuna and former PSC commissioner Jolly Gomez.

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