Chito Narvasa status still unresolved as PBA Board departs for annual planning in LA

ByJay King

A leadership crisis rages in the Philippine Basketball Association even as most of its governors are set to depart later Friday for Los Angeles, California to try and heal the rift during their annual planning session.

The two warring factions in the league board—the bloc of seven clubs led by Talk ‘N Text and the group of five teams led by San Miguel Beer—failed to resolve their bitter dispute on the term of PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa during a full-board meeting on Wednesday. The TNT group composed of TNT, Meralco, NLEX, Alaska, Rain or Shine, Phoenix, and Blackwater still insisted that Narvasa must resign for loss of confidence. However, the San Miguel bloc composed of SMB, Ginebra, Star, GlobalPort, and Kia continued to express full support to the embattled PBA commissioner.

Pundits are divided on whether the governors would be able to patch up their rift, with some seeing no sign of the two warring factions softening their stand on the issue. A possible indication of this was the decision by at least three governors—TNT KaTropa’s Patrick Gregorio, Rain or Shine’s Mert Mondragon, and Phoenix Petroleum’s Raymond Zorrilla—not to join the trip. It is not known whether the three governors will be sending representatives.

On the other hand, some are expressing confidence that the issue will be resolved in LA. They believe that Narvasa will eventually be persuaded to give up his post to restore unity in the league. Their argument is that the 42-year-old league will not allow itself to be divided and brought to ruins by just one man, Narvasa, whose decision to approve the highly controversial SMB-KIA trade triggered the crisis. The trade sent Kia’s top pick to SMB, which quickly used it to acquire the services of 6’8” Fil-German Gilas standout Christian Standhardinger in exchange for three benchwarmers and a future draft pick.

Some pundits believe that Narvasa will not get a renewal of term since his mere presence in the PBA has become indefensible following the “lack of confidence” vote by a majority of the board.

It is expected that the PBA board will come up with measures to avoid a repetition of the crisis by clarifying the role of the commissioner, his independence, and security of tenure.

The present crisis resulted from the conflicting interpretations of the two blocs in the board on one provision in the league by-laws regarding the tenure of the commissioner.

The group of seven governors opposed to the extension of Narvasa’s contract insists that under the PBA by-laws, the commissioner’s term is deemed expired at the end of every season. However, he can be reappointed if he gets at least a two-thirds vote of confidence from the board.

However, the group of five governors led by SMB holds the contrary interpretation that the commissioner cannot be removed from office unless two-thirds of the board vote to expel him. They also contend that a two-thirds vote is also required to appoint a new commissioner.

A two-thirds vote means that the commissioner can only be removed from office by a vote of at least eight members of the 12-member board. Since only seven governors are opposed to Narvasa’s continued stay, their group is short of one member to constitute an effective majority, the pro-Narvasa bloc contends.

A source said Narvasa will join the governors in their session in LA. GlobalPort’s Erick Arejola and Alaska’s Dickie Bachmann, who are in conflict over the issue, are already in LA, while incoming PBA chairman Ramoncito Fernandez of NLEX is expected to join the governors on Nov. 13.

The board will also iron out the formal transfer of league chairmanship from Mikee Romero of GlobalPort to Fernandez, the proposed calendar for the 2017-18 season, and Narvasa’ plans and programs for the coming season that begins on Dec. 17.