UAAP: Controversy never ends
by rick olivares
How controversial is the UAAP’s Two-Year Residency Rule? For one, the issues surrounding it refuse to die.
To recap, the Two-Year Rule was imposed after FEU-FERN’s star player and Ateneo recruited Juniors Most Valuable Player Jerie Pingoy. The rule superseded the previous but similarly inane One-Year Residency Rule (or Soc Rivera Rule) on student-athlete who move from a UAAP high school to another UAAP college.
Senator Pia Cayetano called for a hearing in the senate about the rule. She made good on her promise to take legal action against the rule by helping the family of Mikee Bartolome, a swimmer from UST high school who enrolled in UP for college and was affected by the rule.
In my research about athletes affected by the rule, I met the family of Mikee Bartolome and thought about inviting them make an appearance at the hearing as sort of like a bombshell.
The Bartolome’s tried to go through proper channels in securing a release but when it was denied, they had no choice but to take the legal route.
A Quezon City Regional Trial Court (Branch 226) slapped a Temporary Restraining Order on the UAAP’s Two-Year Residency rule paving the way for Bartolome’s participation in UP’s campaign for a five-peat in swimming.
When the league’s swimming competition began last Thursday, September 19, at the Trace College in Laguna, the UAAP sent an email to the tournament commissioner to stop her from competing. They cited the One-Year Residency Rule that they said was still in effect if the Two-Year Residency Rule did not apply.
The commissioner of the swimming tournament consulted a lawyer; fearing being cited for contempt by the court, he allowed Bartolome to compete. However, swimmers from La Salle and UST did not participate.
Bartolome’s team 4x50 medley relay for women smashed the old record of 2 minutes and 7.58 of a second for the new record of 2 minutes and 6.31. But the UP contingent was unable to fully celebrate because of the non-participation of some swimmers.
The “boycott” drew the ire of Sen. Cayetano who said in a statement:
"I condemn the boycott instigated by certain school officials at the UAAP swimming competitions in support of the UAAP Board's brazen refusal to abide by the court rulings affirming Mikee Bartolome's right to swim in the school of her choice.
"There's nothing to gain from the boycott, except to send the message that the UAAP is too high and too proud to take orders from anyone, including from our honorable courts, even if they trample on the rights of student-athletes.
"By preventing the student-athletes from openly competing and showcasing their talents, the UAAP leadership is proving that promoting the development of the student-athletes is not their priority. Instead they would prefer to create a culture of protectionism in support of their narrow institutional interests.
"Sabotaging the swimming competitions will not resolve this issue. Now, not only Mikee but the rest of the student swimmers as well are suffering from the UAAP leadership's intransigence.
"This is a sad sad day in Philippine sports."
The UAAP responded with a statement of their own that released to media hours after Cayetano’s comments.
“THE UAAP Board remains respectful of a court order against the imposition of the “two-year residency rule” for fresh high school graduates who transfer from one member school to another.
“The board is doing so in the case of University of the Philippines (UP) freshman Anna Dominique “Mikee” Bartolome, a swimmer from UST high school, whose father brought his daughter’s case to court and earned a temporary restraining order and eventually an order preventing the UAAP from imposing the two-year residency rule.
“As a result of the court order, the UAAP has no recourse but to heed and revert to the previous rule which has been imposed for decades. The old rule requires a freshman student-athlete who transfers from one UAAP school to another to complete one year of residency.
“The court order was specific on the “two-year” rule which was imposed only this Season 76, and not on the previously accepted “one-year” rule. It would be worse for the UAAP if it also lifts the long accepted one-year rule.
“In Bartolome’s case, she, like all other freshman transferees before her, must undergo the one-year residency before she could swim for UP. Bartolome’s elder sister served a one-year residency before she could eventually compete for the Fighting Maroons.
“On the “boycott” of swimmers in events Bartolome competed or will compete in, the UAAP Board did not order such, nor did it instigate the move. The board in general deemed it as the schools’ decision, perhaps as a sign of personal indignation or protest.
“Adamson University, the season host, in particular, would not instigate any protest. The Soaring Falcons only have one female entry in the swimming competitions.
“The UAAP Board’s decision to heed the court order was unanimously agreed upon by its members during an emergency meeting on Thursday (September 19).”
First of all the line “the previous rule which has been imposed for decades” isn’t true. That has been in effect for less than a decade as it was passed by the UAAP on May 22, 2007.
And second, if the old One-Year Rule was in effect, why did Bartolome clear the player eligibility meeting before the tournament? Unless this was a tactic to prevent the courts from placing a TRO on that rule as well.
UAAP battles wages on two courts
League sources tell me that the UAAP will revisit all their rules in the off-season but are wary of all the TROs. This is the second such TRO filed against the league this season.
Also this first semester, the family of UPIS cager Joshua General was able to secure the court order that allowed him to play in the juniors basketball tournament.
The UAAP Player Eligibility Committee declared General ineligible to play the rest of the season after he was found out to have exhausted the five-year playing window for high school athletes.
He was initially cleared to play despite having graduated twice from the elementary level, the first from Naga Parochial School in 2008 and a second time in 2010 after he took up Grade Seven at Lourdes School in Mandaluyong.
However, the league also learned that General enrolled in San Beda high school in Taytay in 2008 as a freshman but dropped out in the first semester of that school year.
The TRO secured by the Generals allowed Joshua to play out the remainder of the season.
My league sources now fear that will all the court rulings against them, what is to stop all the schools from resorting to that tactic to get what they want.
A record of controversy
It is a royal mess all right but that is the league’s fault for coming up with all these stupid, prejudiced, unfair, and malicious rules.
For all the success of the UAAP, there’s an ugly side where sportsmanship has taken a backseat to winning. Or winning at all costs.
Rules are routinely being passed to circumvent the success of certain teams. Sometimes, because of the way the rules are vaguely written, they are interpreted in a way to suit the purpose of a few at the expense of others. Some rules are even passed as a means of even punishing certain individuals. Even the scheduling of certain matches at times looks suspicious.
The UAAP Board, supposedly composed of athletic officials and educators (some aren’t), have oft been at odds with each other. Decisions purportedly for the good for the league are sometimes made to stop teams on the playing field.
One board member told me that during a pre-season eligibility meeting, the school representative of a questioned athlete (who was disallowed to suit up) came up to him and cussed him for his decision to vote "no". The angry school representative called in a marker (because he sided with him on a previous decision).
As I said before, therein lies the problem, some times decisions are arrived at to curry favors.
The years have seen a lot of controversies crop up but this season has been the worst in memory.
It started in the pre-season with the Senate hearing into the controversial Two-Year Residency Rule. Then there was the Joshua General TRO against the UAAP. The number of suspensions and memos from the UAAP Commissioner that drew a lot of flack from the different schools (it all boils down to a lack of consistency and differences in interpretation). There was the Bo Perasol suspension and the circumstances that led to it. There was the forfeiture issue and as well as suspended players being courtside. There was even former FEU player Pipo Noundou being banned. And that’s just basketball and it is only the first semester!
If you go back to the league’s history, they have a rap sheet that can fill up a book and this is an abbreviated list.
The first was in the 1960s when two champions were declared as men’s champions – UE and UST – when both teams figured in a fracas and it was deemed the match could no longer continue.
The second was in 1991 when the board ordered a replay of a title match between FEU and La Salle over a player who had fouled out but was on the court for a few more seconds. The latter refused to play and as a result, the trophy was handed over to FEU.
In 1993 after UST swept the elimination rounds and was declared champion, the Final Four was created the following year. While I understand that a Final Four makes the league more exciting, rather than reward a team for excellence, they make it even more difficult.
When UE swept the two elimination rounds in 2007, they lost to La Salle that went through the stepladder format before facing a rusty Red Warriors team that had not played for two weeks.
The following year, a thrice-to-beat incentive was created in the event a team swept the elimination rounds again.
Really? Why not just give them the title outright? Thrice-to-beat? Now that is making it extremely difficult for the other team to win.
There have been residency rules on Fil-Ams and foreigners as well that while correct, started out as a means to curb La Salle’s success in the 1990s.
There’s more but I won’t go into that anymore.
A history lesson and winds of change
In 1924, Dr. Rogelio Ylanan, Physical Education Director of the University of the Philippines got the various athletic directors of Manila schools to form the NCAA. Yet eight years later, three schools – NU, UP, and UST broke ranks over a series of disagreements. They formed a tournament that eventually became the UAAP.
The UAAP grew into prominence when it accepted two refugees from the NCAA, Ateneo in 1978, and La Salle later in 1986.
The league today now a massive success and a hot ticket with no signs of stopping.
However, with all the progresses and success, there came a slew of problems that I mentioned above.
I think that it is high time to review a lot of what goes on in the UAAP.
Earlier this year, I said in some of my statuses on social media that maybe it is time for Ateneo to explore leaving the UAAP. I now realize that it is a wrong statement to make. There are a lot of things to consider that I won’t go into detail. But first and foremost, an attempt to fix the problems of the league must be made. If they are still not yet corrected then maybe then we can really say, it’s time to go elsewhere.
It’s just a coincidence now but when the three schools – NU, UP, and UST -- bolted the NCAA, the man who led State U to a new pasture was a man named Candido Bartolome (who earned his degree in Physical Education from Springfield College in Massachusetts and is considered the ‘Father of Physical Education in the Philippines').
And today, in the midst of all this residency rule storm is Mikee Bartolome (a distant relative of Prof. Candido Bartolome).
Are there winds of change coming?
Vic and Mikee Bartolome with Sen. Pia Cayetano after the filing of the complaint against the UAAP.