The college basketball world was sent into a frenzy following news that a congressman had filed a resolution in the lower house of congress urging congress to prohibit allowing foreign students to compete in all forms of athletic competition, especially in the UAAP and NCAA.

House Resolution No. 388 sought to develop “homegrown Filipino players” by prohibiting the recruitment and acquiring of non-Filipino citizens and foreign imports as players in collegiate leagues.

Resolution not bill

One of the inaccuracies media outlets made when reporting about the resolution was calling it a bill.

What was filed was a resolution, not a bill. There is a substantial difference to the two.

According to senate.gov.ph the official website of the senate of the Philippines:

“Bills are general measures, which if passed upon, may become laws.”

A proposed bill, after going through the whole legislative process, has the potential to become a law which law abiding citizens must follow. This is what happened for the Republic Act 10676 also known as the Student-Athlete Protection Act which started out as Senate Bill 2226 compiled with House Bill 5115. As a result of the proposed bills which became law, the UAAP was forced to do away with long residency requirements for incoming college freshmen athletes.

The Senate website also describes what resolutions are. According to the website: 

“A simple resolution deals with matters entirely within the prerogative of one house of Congress, such as adopting or receiving its own rules. A simple resolution is not considered by the other chamber and is not sent to the President for his signature. Like a concurrent resolution, it has no effect and force of a law. Simple resolutions are used occasionally to express the opinion of a single house on a current issue. Oftentimes, it is also used to call for congressional action on an issue affecting national interest.”

What this means is that even if passed in its fullest form, no law is made. It will not have the force of law and will simply be the expression of the opinion of the House of Representatives on the matter. An example of this would be Senate Resolution No. 20 which was meant to congratulate a sitting senator for taking time off his senate duties to win a boxing match abroad. No rights, obligations or national policies were created as a result of the resolution going through the legislative process.

Equal protection

Even if it was a bill, would it be constitutional?

Many who are opposed to the resolution claim that banning foreign students would be a violation to the equal protection clause of the Constitution. 

Article III Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution reads:

“Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”

“To allow Filipino students a chance to play in college league but deny the same to foreigners would be a denial of their Constitutional rights,” so they say.

However, from a legal standpoint, equal protection has its limits. In the case of Farinas vs Executive Secretary, the Supreme Court stated:

“The equal protection of the law clause in the Constitution is not absolute but is subject to reasonable classification. If the groupings are characterized by substantial distinctions that make real differences, one class may be treated and regulated differently from the other.”

Nationality is and has been used as a valid classification in granting or limiting rights to persons in the Philippines for the longest time. Nationality is used to determine tax rates, to determine ownership over land, to determine valid operations of corporations and even to determine the right to practice a profession. So it would not be inconceivable that nationality be used as a valid classification in determining the right of a student-athlete to compete in collegiate leagues. Right now foreigners are already exempted from coverage in certain provisions of the Student-Athlete Protection Act.

Possible Effects

Considering that what was filed was only a resolution, it does not mean that his advocacy of prohibiting foreign student-athletes will absolutely not push through. If passed by the House, his resolution becomes the shared opinion of the House of Representatives on the issue, rationale and all, and can become the starting point for the passage of a bill to the desired effect of the resolution.

As to whether a law furthering the cause of this resolution should be proposed or passed, that is a different matter.

Right now the UAAP and NCAA are becoming great training grounds for future national athletes because of the increase in level of competition brought by foreign student-athletes. The role of foreigners in increasing the level of play can be seen in the desire of legislators to naturalize foreigners for the sole purpose of playing for the national team or training national athletes. Senate Bill 969 seeks to naturalize a young Russian wrestler to help improve the local wrestling scene. If that young foreign athlete’s presence in the Philippines can be seen as a positive to Philippine sports, why is it not the same for the likes of Sam Ekwe, Kirk Long, Moriah Gingerich, Ben Mbala, Bright Akhuetie, and Angelo Kouame?