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For country?

OBVIOUSLY concerned with the public backlash over its failure to release some of its stalwarts to the Gilas Pilipinas national team, including a boycott of its products, San Miguel Corporation has tried to salvage the situation and hopefully turn it around, but in the process have compounded their problems by effectively blaming the players concerned and not the SMC management.

Purefoods’ governor Rene Pardo’s published statement that they have “no control over our players’ decision when it comes to competing for the national team,” insults our intelligence because having  been associated with the PBA since its inception until we stopped watching the games for the past year, we are well aware of how the PBA operates and to what extent team owners control their players because, after all, they pay them well and provide them with so many perks.

Pardo even suggests that they “debate on the merits of them joining as a professional player. However, in the end representing your country is an incomparable honor. You can’t argue with that.”

Question then is, what is there to debate about?

In his statement, Pardo said SMC management will “continue to encourage” its players “to make themselves available” for the national team.

In effect, he was trying to turn things around by blaming the players and not management when we all know that the players, especially Marc Pingris, has long wanted to play for the Gilas team. Otherwise, why would he

cry when bidding farewell to his teammates and state he was constrained by things beyond his control.

Dead giveaway. Now SMC tries, in its desperation, to lay the blame on the players.

Japeth Aguilar’s reason for pulling out was because he underwent surgery for an injured pinky finger with  photos to justify his decision. But now, we’ve learned that he’s slam-dunking in the Ginebra practice!

LA Tenorio claimed he was too tired. What manner of man is this, who is too tired to play for his country, while our young soldiers lay their lives on the line in defending these same individuals day in and  day out and

get paid a comparative pittance?

While the public outcry has singled out SMC, we certainly must not forget Rain or Shine, whose owners in the past had given their wholehearted support to Gilas Pilipinas but now decided to deny coach Tab Baldwin the

services of a genuine star in Paul Lee, whose value to the team is almost immeasurable with the absence of LA Tenorio aside from shooting star Jeff Tan.

This regrettably reeks of a conspiracy to sabotage the national team, which is bankrolled by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny Pangilinan, whose passion for basketball and lifting the spirit of our countrymen through sports development and earning respect internationally, is legendary.

Spin.ph ran an excellent piece on the present situation and said: “Allow us to warn you: there is already simmering anger among fans over this Gilas mess, and a campaign to boycott not just the PBA but its member companies

is gaining steam. While  it may not come to that, better brace yourselves for a huge backlash.”

We recall that in 1990, our beloved friend and mentor, the late Rudy Salud, who served with distinction as  PBA Commissioner, answered the public clamor for PBA players to be made available for the Asian Games.

Rudy ignored the feeble objections of some team owners and went ahead by appointing the “Living Legend” Robert Jaworski as head coach with Norman Black and Rino Salazar as assistants. That team trained for two weeks, but won a silver medal, losing to mighty China in the finals.

As his good friend and two-time FIBA president and longtime Basketball Association of the Philippines head, the late Lito Puyat  intoned in his modulated baritone, “Para sa Bayan” was the battle cry then.

Seems to us, it means nothing to most of the PBA team owners and the PBA as an institution today.

Have we, as a people, lost the fervor of committing ourselves to God and country above all else? This indeed would be a sad day for our nation.

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