The Philippine Star

True ac­count­abil­ity

- By BILL VELASCO Central Security Service · Philippine Olympic Committee · Philippine Sports Commission · organization · Philippines · Nigeria · International Basketball Federation · Basketball Association of the Philippines · Basketball Association of the Philippines-Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas

A week ago, this col­umn sounded the alarm re­gard­ing un­nec­es­sary de­lays in procur­ing equip­ment to be set up and used in the ma­jor­ity of venues for next month’s South­east Asian Games. Three days later, a group of sup­pli­ers for cer­tain sports reached out to this writer – on the con­di­tion of anonymity – to ex­press their fear that their equip­ment might not make it all. They pointed out to de­lays caused by the ca­sual at­ti­tude of some na­tional sports as­so­ci­a­tion (NSA) of­fi­cials. They added that the pro­cess­ing of or­ders also takes long at the Philip­pine end.

Time and time again, we keep hear­ing about abuses and in­ep­ti­tude on the part of NSA heads. It has been re­peated so much as to have be­come mind-numb­ing. And yet, al­most noth­ing has changed in the more than three decades that this writer has been a jour­nal­ist. What is the real prob­lem?

NSA’s rarely have any form if ac­count­abil­ity. And it will not change in the near fu­ture. And it is un­likely to change, ever.

Who do NSA’s re­port to? The usual an­swers are their IFs or in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tions, the Philip­pine Olympic Com­mit­tee and the Philip­pine Sports Com­mis­sion. But these of­fi­cial re­la­tion­ships are, by na­ture, in­vested with deep per­sonal re­la­tion­ships that make pol­i­tics and fa­voritism in­escapable. To rise up in a sport, one de­vel­ops friend­ships to fur­ther one’s in­ter­ests. The more pow­er­ful your al­lies are, the more suc­cess­ful one be­comes. If you play your cards right, your IF sends you money and stays out of your way. And gen­er­ally speak­ing, IFs do not med­dle in their mem­bers’ in­ter­nal af­fairs, ex­cept to take sides or ar­bi­trate if there are two or more or­ga­ni­za­tions lay­ing claim to a ter­ri­tory. Re­mem­ber the row be­tween that Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of the Philip­pines (BAP) and the Sama­hang Bas­ket­bol ng Pilip­inas (SBP)? That took years to re­solve, and caused FIBA to sus­pend the coun­try, even dur­ing the 2005 South­east Games which the Philip­pines hosted.

A body in mo­tion tends to stay in mo­tion. Sports­men in power tend to stay in power. On pa­per, NSAs are democ­ra­cies. In real­ity, many are glo­ri­fied fief­doms, closed king­doms ruled in per­pe­tu­ity by a few. Al­most all have an­nual elec­tions, wherein the same en­trenched re­gional di­rec­tors vote the same en­trenched board mem­bers into power again and again. One NSA al­legedly changed its con­sti­tu­tion to dis­pense with the cha­rade of elec­tions al­to­gether. That group was kicked out by the Philip­pine Olympic Com­mit­tee. So there is some con­so­la­tion.

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