Sunday, October 5, 2008


In case you haven't noticed, the World Ten Ball Championship (WTBC) is being held in Manila. In fact, today is going to be the last day. Games are being televised on Studio 23 in the wee hours in the morning.

Glaringly missing in action are our own major pool players. There is no Bata Reyes, no Django Bustamante in the field. No Alex Pagulayan and Ronnie Alcano. The biggest Filipino names in the event are Marlon Manalo and Jeffrey de Luna, who are already out of the competition. The relatively unknown Demosthenes "Plong Plong" Pulpul led the Philippine contingent, who reached the semi-finals. He lost to Taiwanese phenom Wu Chia Ching.

Without the big Filipino pool players, there are less sponsors, less excitement and less fans watching. There are so many vacant seats in the venue that you'd think you're watching third-rate players competing in the Brgy. Captain Alvarado Cup.

How has it come to this?

There are many issues involved, including the competency of the BSCP leaders, their leadership style, the Pagulayan incident, and the conflict of interest. Let me dwell in the biggest one, which is conflict of interest.

On one side is the Billiard Managers and Professional Players Association of the Philippines (BMPAP). BMPAP is an organization composed of pool managers (e.g. Aristeo Puyat and Perry Mariano) and the top players in their stables (e.g. Reyes, Bustamante, Alcano, Kiamco, Orcollo etc.). They are asking that BSCP Chairman Yen Makabenta should resign from BSCP because of conflict of interest. Makabenta heads Raya Sports, which organizes pool events in the country (e.g. World 9-Ball Championship and the current WTBC). BMPAP stresses that its members will not join any Raya-organized event unless Makabenta resigns from BSCP.

On the other side of the fence is the Philippine Olympic Committee-accredited BSCP and Makabenta. Makabenta argues that BSCP is still a private association, despite its NSA status (Take note that being an NSA has many perks, including the authority to sanction a sports event, and to make the prizes tax-free). He said:
The suggestion that to avoid 'conflict of interest' a BSCP official must be free of business or professional interest in our sport would negate the very purpose of our association. It would consign the BSCP to the leadership of individuals who can't do anything to help Philippine pool development. xxx

On the other hand, I contend that there is a real conflict of interest when player managers become also the organizers of pool tournaments. There is conflict because managers have an interest in their players' winning the tournaments and promoters are obligated to be impartial and fair to all the players in the tournaments, who pay good money to join and also seek to win. The basic principle of fairness is strained because managers naturally favor their players in various ways, from entry into the tournament to event formatting to arrangements.

I think both camps have a point. In Makabenta's defense, he is not Raya and he is not BSCP. It is an elementary rule in law that a stockholder/member has a legal personality distinct from the corporation. Unless BMPAP shows proof that Makabenta has actually used his influence in BSCP to favor Raya Sports to the prejudice of other organizers, he can't really be forced out of BSCP. In other words, it is not really a question of the legality of Makabenta's acts. It is more of propriety.

In BMPAP's defense, the managers and the players have made Philippine pool what it is today. We would not be known throughout the world as a pool mecca if not for Efren Reyes and the other Pinoy pool legends. And our pool greats would not be known if not for the managers like Putch Puyat who bankrolled Reyes and other players to the U.S. to blaze the trail for our young guns. Of course they have a stake in BSCP. If they have any beef as to the leadership style, competency or integrity of the people in BSCP, then they have every right to raise it. However, the manner of of their protest (boycott/blackmail) is suspect.

As you can see, what we have here is one big mess. Mas magulo pa sa b*lbol, ika nga. And I think we are on the point of no return. It is highly improbable that the protagonists will sit down and talk the problems through. We'll just have to wait to see who blinks first. I just hope the blinking happens sooner rather than later, before we ruin one of the few good things we have going for the country.

Photo: W1LL13, Flickr, Creative Commons

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