MANILA, Philippines – Senator Pia Cayetano is determined to push for a law that will abolish the two-year residency rule of the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP), unless the athletic association itself agrees to scrap the rule in the near future.
The controversial rule requires student-athletes transferring from a high school of a UAAP-member university to a different UAAP school for college to undergo a two-year residency period before they can compete in the league, unless they can get a release from their former school.
Cayetano believes that the rule is discriminatory and described it as a “human rights violation” that prevents students from competing and are forced to sit out the UAAP season instead.
Cayetano, however, agrees that limits should be set on the benefits that student-athletes are allowed to receive if they are being recruited to transfer schools.
"Wala namang masama at kasama sa freedom ng bata 'yun na lumipat ng kahit anong school niya gusto 'pag dating niya ng college. Pero ayaw nating mangyari na lumilipat 'yun because of money. Ayaw nating mangyari na lumilipat 'yun doon sa tinatawag kong scholarship with benefits," Cayetano told reporters after presiding over a Senate inquiry on her proposed magna carta for student athletes.
"The scholarship should be limited to academic scholarship and then 'yung board and lodging, and then 'yung essentials. Essentials, meaning 'yung pang transpo mo. Hindi pwede 'yung ginawang negosyo 'yung paglilipat ng school kasi ginawa mo nang commercial object ang batang 'yan," she said.
"Sabi ko nga e kung ganoon lang ang gagawin, tawagin na lang natin na 'commercial athletic association.' Huwag na nating tawagin na mga 'university athletic association.' I'm very firm on that and if they cannot come up with an agreement within the next two weeks then I will pass this law immediately. I will ask that it be expedited because this is a violation of the human rights of many student athletes."
The committee also heard the story of swimmer Mikee Bartolome, who graduated from UST High School but enrolled in and played for the University of the Philippines in college.
Citing the two-year residency rule, the UAAP had wanted to stop her from competing in the swimming event last year, but Bartolome managed to secure a temporary restraining order against the rule. Her participation, however, sparked a boycott by UST and De La Salle University.
"Dapat po kasi apat na teams ang maglalaro sa relay. Ang nangyari po, dalawa na lang po kami na nandoon… UP and Ateneo," Bartolome told the committee.
"'Yung teammate ko na lang po nagsabi sa akin na yung buong women's team ng UST, sabay sabay daw pong umalis doon sa stands tapos bumalik daw po doon sa dorm kung saan nagi-stay. Doon ko na lang po nalaman na binoycott na pala ako. All throughout the competition po, 'yung UST po, hindi po talaga sila lumangoy, hindi na po sila nagpapakita while the other team po, 'yung sa swim ko lang po doon hindi sila lumalangoy."
Cayetano protested against the move of the schools to stage a boycott.
"What are we teaching our children? Look at what this girl had to go through. How many of us here can say that they've been something like this already? And this is sanctioned by the school. Because if it was not sanctioned, it's so easy for the coaches, for the officials to say, 'Hindi maglangoy kayo.' And I do not know an athlete who would not participate in an event that they had trained for for years," Cayetano said.
Senator Cynthia Villar, for her part, said: "I cannot understand this two-year residency from high school to college because usually the students, they change school when they go to college… I could understand if it's high school to high school or college to college. But usually, [for] the first year of your college, usually you change school. You don't go to the same school. I would like to encourage that because you will have variety. You will experience another form of campus life and that would really make the students well-rounded."
Member-schools, associations, and stakeholders are being asked to submit their respective recommendations before a bill is finally crafted.