THE silence is deafening at the PBA front after top officials from rival factions who traded barbs in a very public mud-slinging just last week called for a ceasefire and agreed to sit down 'like true gentlemen' six days from now in Los Angeles.
Well, the environment should be different, the mood more relaxed, and the perspectives fresh the next time they meet, but one thing will never change as the governors seek to put an end to one of the worst crises to rock the league in its 42 years.
Chito Narvasa has to go.
Narvasa is under fire for approving a one-sided trade prior to the PBA draft, but that was just one in a series of contentious calls that have, sadly, chipped away at the fans' confidence in the man, the position he holds, and the league he serves.
That majority of the people who put Narvasa in that position now want him out only means the man tasked to solve the league's problems, well-meaning as he may be, has become the problem.
Look. Narvasa arrived in the PBA two years ago like he was the new sheriff in town, roaming the court as if with guns drawn, not once hesitating to hit players and coaches with fines and suspensions as he launched a personal crackdown against a perceived lack of discipline in the league.
Just that, discipline, or the lack of it, wasn't the league's biggest problem when he came in. Critics in fact felt by then that the PBA had gone 'soft' and had turned into a league of jump shooters - the reason rugged players like Calvin Abueva and Yeng Guiao's Rain or Shine 'bad boys' became popular among fans.
The PBA's biggest problem then, as it is now, was its inability to achieve balance. Just 12 teams, yet the gap between the strong and weak ball clubs keeps getting wider, no thanks to a cache of questionable trades from the time of Chito Salud that kept making the rich clubs richer and the poor poorer.
The job of policing such trades, of course, has become a tough balancing act for the commissioner ever since the league allowed multiple ownership to flourish, leaving half of the 12-team cast under the control of two rival conglomerates.
Such one-sided trades never stopped during Narvasa's time. They only got worse.
In justifying the commissioner's decision to approve the trade that enabled San Miguel to draft top rookie Christian Standhardinger, veritable apologists of SMC and Narvasa on social media harked back to two head-scratching deals entered into by expansion teams KIA and Blackwater that gave MVP-owned TNT the top two picks in the 2015 rookie draft.
These people point out that Narvasa also approved the two TNT deals. Proof of the commissioner's sense of fairness, they say. They conveniently forgot that Narvasa shouldn't have approved those deals in the first place; just as plain common sense dictated that he should've put his foot down and threw the Standhardinger trade to the bin where it belonged.
Perception is everything when it comes to the PBA and its officials. Those were not my words but the guiding principle of Rudy Salud, who made it his mission to fight any perception that his office or its referees may be unfair or biased when he was commissioner during the PBA's glory years in the eighties.
Even before the much-maligned Standhardinger deal, Narvasa was weighed down by doubts about his fairness, largely because of the circumstance that led to his hiring. It didn't help that, unwittingly or not, he called one PBA board member 'boss' and another 'partner' during media interviews.
Heck, Rudy Salud was for so long the lawyer and legal adviser of SMC top honcho Danding Cojuangco. Yet not once was he heard addressing the big boss as 'boss' during his spell as commissioner. At least not in public.
Even his son Chito struggled to shake off the 'SMC boy' label during his time in charge. But the younger Salud at least had the guts to stick to his guns after a life ban he slapped on former Beermen import Renaldo Balkman led to a threat of a pullout by the San Miguel camp.
The PBA board should learn from the league's past leadership, all the way from the time of the great Leo Prieto, to know exactly what the commissioner of the future should be: someone who is forthright, knows what he's doing, and is principled enough to stand up for what is right.
No, the league doesn't need new rules to empower the Commissioner's Office. The rules are there. What overly zealous board members should look for is an iron-willed, fair-minded commissioner who will look after the best interest of the league, even if it means standing up to them.
On who that is, I honestly don't know.
But what is certain in my mind is that that commissioner isn't Narvasa. Along the lines of the immortal words of LeBron James, later parodied by Gregg Popovich, Narvasa has lost the confidence of not one, not two, not three but SEVEN of the 12 teams.