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    COLUMN: Give Dioceldo Sy a break

    Jul 19, 2020

    THEY'RE ganging up on Dioceldo Sy, the man who owns the PBA basketball team Blackwater Elite. He was castigated for making his team practice without prior league approval. Insulted, the man announced he was selling his team, for which he was again attacked for lack of commitment to the league.

    Poor Mr. Dioceldo. The man who poured millions of his personal fortune and devoted more than half his life to basketball, now wants out from a game he loves.

    Whether he is out of the PBA or not remains to be seen. He has sent mixed signals about his plan. He has apologized to the PBA for the unsanctioned workout, but he has not fully discounted plans to bolt the league where he gained membership six years ago after forking over P100 million.

    Sy’s apology did not get him anywhere. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial still fined him P100,000 for Elite’s 'illegal' workout, which the commissioner still ruled a breach of health protocol. Sy’s entire team was also told to undergo a swab test and to stay quarantined for seven days.

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    What’s going on in the PBA is certainly not building confidence for its planned resumption of the Philippine Cup this year. Instead, what we’re witnessing is a PBA in turmoil, divided and unsure of its next steps.

    For instance, the IATF gave the PBA the go-signal to resume practice last July 3. It’s been two weeks, and until now there are still no guidelines for practice sessions. Maybe it’s the fault of government agencies which failed to issue the official guidelines, but the PBA should have badgered them to work faster. Instead, the PBA simply sat and waited.

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    It is probably this lack of direction that has prompted Sy and the Elite to jump the gun on the PBA. It’s been four months since the entire league has undergone quarantine, and players and coaches just want to get the adrenaline flowing again.


      The PBA would have none of that. It ruled that strict protocols have to be observed and everyone in the PBA will just have to, like the commissioner, sit and wait.

      After Dioceldo was fined, he received a notice from the Games and Amusements Board, which threatened more sanctions against Sy and the Elite. Maybe that was the last straw. Following this, Dioceldo declared that he’s had it with the PBA, which he thinks has neither consideration nor flexibility. He announced that he is quitting and selling his team, setting his price at P150 million.

      This earned another rebuke from the PBA, this time from the chairman of the board of governors, Ricky Vargas of TNT. Vargas said Sy cannot simply walk away, he cannot just sell, and nobody can just come in to buy the franchise because there are procedures to follow.

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      Why no one can sell what he owns is a mystery. Of course, Dioceldo can sell. What he can’t control is whether the buyer will be acceptable to the PBA. This is because the PBA has a rule that says a two-thirds vote of the board is needed to transfer a franchise.

      “We need to approve first who the buyer will be,” Vargas said. “It’s like a golf club membership, you cannot just come in and expect the members to approve of you.”

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      Yeah, right. Though the PBA was conceived as a league to entertain the masses, membership in the league is strictly elite, no different from membership at the Manila Golf Club, Wack Wack, and Manila Polo Club. So, Dioceldo just cannot hand over his franchise to anyone.

      Which is mindboggling because, of the 12 PBA teams, only four, maybe five owners — one of them Dioceldo — gambled their own personal fortune to buy a franchise. The rest of the PBA teams are corporate owned, and those listed as owners never had to risk their own money for a franchise.


        We might say, of course, that all this turmoil in the PBA is connected to the dreaded Covid-19. It seems nothing moves without the virus in the center of plans. And with Covid-19 cases rising (in the Asean, the Philippines is second only to Indonesia in number of cases) and the local government responding ineptly, it may be time for the PBA to consider shutting down for the year.

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        Think of 2020 as a lost year.

        Go back to square one and plan for 2021. By then, several issues would’ve been out of the way — including the Sy and Blackwater issue, and the plan for a bubble which the PBA is having so much trouble trying to make safe and affordable.

        No one knows how 2021 will look like, but the PBA can at least take this time to think of its survival.

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