A privilege, not an inherent right

QUITE honestly, we didn’t wish to get embroiled in the seeming controversy surrounding writer Snow Badua for several reasons we’d rather not discuss. Suffice it to say, as a media man associated with the PBA in various capacities since the launch of the league in 1975 and having an insight into the workings of the league and its nuances, we feel it is incumbent on us to try to shed some light on an issue which, in some respects, has been blown out of proportion.

The so-called ban, as the PBA has clearly clarified is not an attack on the press as an institution, but a disciplinary measure taken against an individual who, in the valued judgment of Commissioner Chito Narvasa and the PBA board, violated the fundamental tenets of responsible journalism.

We have always maintained that freedom of the press is not a license to malign individuals or associations and must be exercised with an utmost sense of responsibility.

As to the issue that triggered this whole affair, which was in fact,  an alleged affair or indiscretion that one of the executives of San Miguel Corporation and a prominent personality in the organization and the league itself, was guilty of.

The basic question we need to ask—and answer—is whether the private lives of individuals in the PBA are of public interest and need to be treated in the manner it was.

The PBA must primarily be about the game itself, the league, its attention to the fans who have supported the PBA in growing numbers through the years and the fundamental issue of integrity.

We recall that our beloved and esteemed friend and mentor, the late Commissioner Rudy Salud, had often told us that “integrity is non-negotiable.” If we take integrity to mean the quality of wholeness we must seriously question the stories and the use of the social media to tarnish and malign an individual or although it would seem that the person written about also failed to measure up to the standards of the “quality of wholeness.”

But the over-riding concern must surely be the effects on the family of the PBA official concerned and the contention that this indeed was a family affair best resolved within the household of the parties concerned.

While the PBA is a private association, with its own Constitution and By Laws, we once again turn to the wisdom of Rudy Salud, who made it clear that while the PBA is a private association, it is one imbued with public interest because it is an integral part of the everyday lives of millions of Filipinos who support it.

Against this background, one cannot imagine that the so-called “affair” of a PBA official and a model are of public interest, although they are the fodder of the often irritating gossip programs on television which, we strongly believe, cater to the baser instincts of a misguided public.

There must be a higher calling for the PBA and those of us who chronicle its story. It should always remain the story of basketball and what the Asia magazine many years ago described as the “Big Little League.”   

In the context of what the league stands for  and our peoples’ passionate love for basketball, the alleged indiscretions of one man is too little to be considered big and worthy of the attention of a responsible journalist, who has, in recent years, been extended all the privileges and sometimes more than others, and has  regrettably been used by one or two individuals within the PBA as a vehicle to attack those, who disagree and on one occasion even went to the extent of physically assaulting a fine, decent colleague in the PBA who is the backbone of the statistical inputs that enhance the stories of the games and set the standards for the various prestigious awards. 

The PBA is, whatever its faults or shortcomings, a league that mirrors the passion of the Filipinos, with basketball and it is this facet that must be enhanced not the alleged passion demonstrated outside the playing court by one man.

We recall that many years ago, the late “Man on the Ball” Romy Kintanar was taken out of the TV/radio coverage of the games after he incurred the ire of a prominent board member, with his articles that were considered malicious.

At that time, nobody in the media raised a fuss about it, perhaps because they were unaware of what happened to one of the most popular figures in the PBA.

We need to recognize that accreditation is a privilege and not an inherent right. We ourselves had our name stricken off the list of TV reporters assigned to cover the Southeast Asian Games some years ago because a top official of the Philippine Olympic Committee did not appreciate some of our critical articles, which had absolutely nothing personal about them.

We accepted our fate because the authority to grant accreditation was a right that was useless to question or quarrel over.

Perhaps Snow Badua can accept his fate and within the parameters set down by Commissioner Chito Narvasa, with the PBA board’s support if not approval, function like a true and responsible media man because he has the talent to do a good job and is known to be hard-working, but needs to re-direct his attention to more ennobling aspects of the game and the men who play the  game.

Beyond all this must be the underlying reality that the so-called ban on Snow is not a ban in the strictest sense of the word because it allows him to perform his duties as a a media man but at some cost. And, most significantly, it should not be misinterpreted as an attack on press freedom.  

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