Finally, the bill filed to curb residency rules in athletics associations has been passed. It is now law and all that needs to be done is to publish it in the Official Gazette and two newspapers.
Student-athletes of the Philippines, rejoice! Your days of having to endure residency are over. Or are they?
Republic Act No. 10676 spearheaded by Senator Pia Cayetano, known as the Student-Athletes Protection Act aims to curb the commercialization of what are supposed to be amateur leagues.
However, it seems that the words used in this statute betray its policy.
SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – Article XIV, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution recognizes the role of the State to protect and promote the right of all the citizens to quality education at all levels, and to take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all. Further, Section 19(1) of the same Article provides that the State shall promote physical education, sports programs and competitions alongside training for international competitions to foster self-discipline, teamwork and excellence for the attainment of a healthy and alert citizenry. Thus, the State shall recognize and uphold the rights of student-athletes to further hone their skills and abilities in their respective fields of amateur sports without neglecting their education and general well-being.
The law was specifically designed with two principles in mind — student rights and non-commercialization.
Unfortunately, when describing the regulations to be imposed upon residency rules, they immediately drop their tone in reference to non-Filipino students.
SEC. 4. Residency of Student-Athletes. – Without prejudice to the respective rules of athletic associations on student-athletes who are foreign imports, the following rules on residency shall be applied:
“Foreign imports”. It’s easy to pass this off as the Filipino-English slang in reference to foreign players in a mostly local team. Even Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche who are technically Filipino citizens are still often referred to as “imports” when playing with Gilas. However, the lawmakers could have chosen a different word to refer to these athletes.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, an import is : something that is imported : a product brought into a country to be sold there. Now you can see where Congress slipped up. When they speak of Filipino student-athletes, Jerie Pingoy, Mikee Reyes and the like, they are student-athletes, students first, whose rights must at all times be protected by the State. But when they talk about foreigners like Karim Abdul, Kirk Long or Sam Ekwe, suddenly they’re cattle, products brought into a country to be sold. So much for non-commercialization.
But this poor choice of words doesn’t really have any significant effect toward the implementation of this law. It does, however, give us a peek into the mind sets of the lawmakers who wrote this law, that they don’t see foreign students in the same light as Filipinos, that somehow having an all-Filipino team is a crutch.
So what does this new law actually mean for the UAAP?
It simply reduces the maximum number of residency years to one, if you are Filipino.
I shall now illustrate the rules through fictional (hopefully not for long) student-athletes that want to be a Soaring Falcon.
If you are a senior high school athlete of Adamson High School and want to play for Adamson University the following year, no league can force you to serve even a day of residency.
If you are the graduating high school MVP of Ateneo High School and want to bring your talents to San Marcelino and play for the Soaring Falcons, the UAAP cannot impose any form of residency rules on you.
If you are a high school student athlete of Letran Highschool which plays in the NCAA and decide that Adamson High School which is part of the UAAP, is the team you want to be in, you aren’t allowed to be forced to serve even a day of residency.
If you are a high school athlete of UPIS but suddenly feel that Adamson High School is a better fit to your playing style, at most you can be forced to serve one year of residency because both are UAAP member schools.
If you are a seven-foot basketball playing monster from the University of Visayas and want to play for Adamson University, the most you will sit out is a year.
If you are a student of FEU who wants to transfer to Adamson University to play for the Falcons, you might have to sit out a year for residency.
If you are a Filipino playing for Palo Alto High school and decide to come back home and suit up for the Soaring Falcons, there’s no need to wait and you can play straight away.
If you are a Filipino studying in De Paul University and choose to play for its congregation affiliate Adamson University, you’re welcome to do so, but you might be forced to serve a maximum of a year of residency.
If you are a French player with a killer crossover playing for De Paul University and choose to play for Adamson University, you will be forced to serve whatever residency rule is applicable to the UAAP because this new law doesn’t apply to you.
Unfortunately, the law didn’t pass on time for Season 78. It was signed into law by President Aquino on Aug. 26, 2015. According to the New Civil Code, a law takes effect only 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of national circulation. It was published in the Philippine Star on August 29, 2015. By this count, it takes effect on September 14, 2015, well after the first few UAAP games have been played. By then, UAAP would have reserved the right to disqualify student-athletes who have not met the residency requirements.
Any school-based athletic association yet to start its season will be bound by this law. For the UAAP, it’s likely that the residency rules will affect only the second semester events.
In my earlier assessment of the senate bill, I noticed the vagueness off the bill which might lead to undesired effects. Thankfully, some of them have been addressed.
The silence on its effectivity on foreign students would have included them in the coverage of this law, meaning foreign students fresh out of high school would have been able to come into school leagues without any sort of residency. Adding Sec. 4 excluded them from the coverage of the law and the respective school leagues have the discretion to add residency rules for them as they please.
Still Problematic Provisions
This lack of a catch-all phrase in Sec. 6 which reads:
SEC. 6. Commercialization of Student-Athletes – Schools shall not offer a student-athlete or the immediate family members benefits or incentives beyond those enumerated under Section 5 of this Act which are contrary to the nature of amateur sports and which may result in the commercialization of a student-athlete.
It still lets associations and other entities which are interested in the school, off the hook. An alumni association, a corporation, a non-school official can easily offer a student athlete the stars and the moon without repercussion.
This section also enumerates what can and cannot be offered as incentive to a student-athlete. It adds what cannot be offered to a student-athlete’s immediate family. This means that a school can “up the offer” to a student-athlete by providing tuition, board and lodging, allowances and all the other allowed benefits, to their kin, their siblings, relatives, parents, cousins, extended families and similar people, because it’s not an issue in the law, only the kinds of benefits are being regulated.
The UAAP has already caved in to the pressure brought by passing this law, allowing former NU Bullpup Hubert Cani to play for Ateneo after only one year of residency. The UAAP was not yet obliged to let him play. The law has not created any rights or obligations just yet. If you’re wondering why your school’s recruits aren’t suiting up despite serving a year of residency but Cani is being allowed to play, it’s because Ateneo had him in their submitted lineup and according to reports, if the UAAP still refused to let him play, they would file a TRO on them yet again. So unless your school had the foresight to include whoever recruit they had that would already be eligible in their lineup and had a TRO planned, you’ll have to wait another season to see him/her play.
Ultimately, the law simply ensures that the maximum down time for a Filipino student-athlete is one year. It acknowledges issues such as player piracy and over-commercialism which are likely to be addressed further in subsequent legislation. For many, it’s about time this law was made.
Fortunately for the likes of Hubert Cani and the thousands of student-athletes to come, that want to play for a different school in college, an MVP caliber athlete named Mikee Bartolome opted to swim for UP, because had she chosen any other school to swim for, Senator Cayetano might not have even considered authoring this law.