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Coke issue far from over

/ 12:29 AM February 22, 2012

Did you have a good night’s sleep?
This was my first question at the press briefing that followed the much-awaited governors meeting at the PBA office in Libis last Monday.
The question was addressed to PBA Commissioner Chito Salud who everyone presumed would undergo his first acid test as commissioner in this board meeting.
I had envisioned Chito the night before the meeting standing by his bedroom window with arms outstretched. In my mind, he was gazing at the aurora borealis as he invoked the wisdom of the biblical King Solomon.
Most of us in the PBA circles agreed that the resolution of the controversial Coke issue would require Solomonic wisdom; that his stand could make or break him.
“I wouldn’t want to be in Chito’s shoes,” remarked a PBA governor on the eve of the meeting, certain that there would be a heated argument, if not downright fireworks, when the board convened Monday noon.
“I just feel sorry for JB (Baylon). We lost a strong league supporter and believer,” the governor said.
Talk ‘N Text governor Ricky Vargas also had something to say and unlike the others, was not shy (or afraid?) to be quoted openly.
* * *
“The irony of it all is that it was JB himself who had requested the board to push his PBA chairmanship one season ahead of his actual term on the rotation wheel,” Ricky disclosed.
“JB wanted his chairmanship to coincide with Coke’s 100th anniversary in the Philippines.”
According to Ricky, JB even presented the board with a very attractive incentive. If the Philippine cage team qualified for the Olympics, he would take the group to London.
The board gave JB the nod to be chair after lawyer Mert Mondragon’s term this year. But since the Philippines did not qualify for the Olympics, JB told the board he would take them to Atlanta instead where the Coke head office was situated, for the multi-national company “to strengthen its ties with the PBA board.”
“Unfortunately, the reverse happened. On its 100th year, Coke signified its intention to leave the PBA,” Ricky lamented.
* * *
“The weather was so nice and cool last night, I slept like a baby,” was the commissioner’s reply to my query. It was not the answer I expected.
The commissioner then introduced Ronald Asuncion of Coke, JB’s replacement in the PBA board.
“What happened in the meeting?” a veteran scribe addressed the question to Chito who, in turn, gave the floor to Asuncion.
Asuncion said he informed the board that contrary to speculations, there had been no sale between Coke and San Miguel Corp.
With that pronouncement, what other question of consequence could anyone ask? Nobody wanted to be impolite. Nobody wanted to further grill the poor Asuncion. Nobody dared call him a liar.
Even I was speechless. All it took was a short denial and the crisis was over. The strategy was so simple, nobody anticipated it. We were all disarmed and commissioner Chito didn’t need King Solomon’s wisdom.
Contrary to expectations, there was no big story in the papers the following day, although there was almost a full attendance from media, who could only write about the status of the Lassiter-Baclao trade and the news that Robert Non of Ginebra would be the next PBA chair.
* * *
Monday morning, I got a text message from still another governor who describes himself as a “restless board member.” The governor said he is bothered by by Asuncion’s conflicting statements. He then cites the statements one by one.
The issue isn’t over, he said.
“Just wait.”

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TAGS: Basketball, Chito Salud, Coca Cola, JB Baylon, PBA, Powerade Tigers, Sports
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