Weighing in on the Encho Serrano case
by rick olivares
Today is the start of the UAAP Season 79 Juniors Division Final Four.
It must rankle Adamson University that the tournament that they had half in the bag has been pried from their collective fingers after the forfeiture of their matches after Florencio “Encho” Serrano was found to have been ineligible to play.
Actually, the word “ineligible” is a little too strong a word as it sounds like the youngster is a cheat and the school complicit. Let’s be clear on this. No, both Serrano and Adamson are not in this case. They just got nailed on a technicality.
What is that technicality?
Before we visit that, here are the facts of the case.
Encho Serrano was enrolled at Jose Escaler Memorial School in Apalit, Pampanga in 2012 for his sixth grade. The following year, his parents moved him to St. Vincent’s Academy also in Apalit for grade seven. Serrano didn’t pass and was asked to repeat. He did enroll again but left the school in September of the same school year.
Urged by a cousin of his who was playing for the Mapua Cardinals, he moved to Malayan High School in 2015. He was told to secure his documents from St. Vincent’s but was informed that the transcript was misplaced. Malayan then asked to secure the report card from Jose Escaler Memorial School. Besides, he repeated and finished his seventh grade with Malayan.
He then transferred to Adamson the next year where he served his one-year residency. Adamson asked Serrano to secure the paperwork from Malayan but he did not mention St. Vincent’s. He explained that there was no malicious intent not mention St. Vincent’s since it is with Malayan where he finished his Grade 7.
Now one UAAP school found out that Serrano was enrolled at St. Vincent’s and this information was passed on to another school leading to the questioning of the eligibility.
Adamson was informed of this on December 9 of last year and was told to secure what documents that was needed. Now, Adamson was able to secure a document from St. Vincent’s dated January 27 verifying Serrano’s testimony that the documents were “not available” at the time of the initial request.
Four days later, on the 31st of January, the UAAP declared that Serrano was ineligible and forfeited all of Adamson’s wins.
On February 2, a temporary restraining order was secured by Adamson arguing that the grounds for the ineligibility “is unwritten, too sweeping as though making an innocuous omission fatal and contemptible.”
Here’s what I think about the whole matter.
They were informed of this as early as December 9 of 2016. Why didn’t they quickly move to resolve this matter? The paperwork from St. Vincent’s came more than a month later. December 9 is too early for any school to close for the Christmas break. The school should have sought an audience with the UAAP to get this done.
And knowing there was a question about Serrano, they should have not played him until the matter was resolved. In this regard, they gambled and lost. Even without Serrano, they are still good enough to make it to the Final Four and win. But to have all the matches it won with Serrano forfeited – that’s a death blow.
Shockingly, it isn’t like Adamson isn’t familiar with how the board thinks or runs their ship – the chances of them losing the decision and the vote were huge.
I do not believe that there was malice here and the UAAP Board understands and knows that.
Here is how I look at the UAAP’s decision.
Adamson said that the kid had earlier passed the screening. However, UAAP Rules state (Letter G of Section 2 on Eligibility) “Protests on a player’s eligibility must be presented in writing to the chairperson of the eligibility committee and any board member of the university being protested against any time from the start of the competition up to the end of the first round.”
“The eligibility of an athlete may not be questioned 24 hours before the start of the second round. Except in cases where there has been negligence on the part of the member university as determined by the board.”
So in essence, the league was well within their rights to take it up. And from what I understand about the line of thinking of the UAAP Board, while Adamson’s actions are not malicious that still doesn’t make it right and a rule is a rule and exceptions could be a precedent. Hence, should it be overlooked? It is a harsh punishment but a rule is a rule.
Yet even so, the league is also pilloried for member schools making decisions based on their agendas. That will always be levied against them as it is run by member schools. That is why it is best run by an independent body with no affiliations with any school whatsoever.
Having said that and while understanding that a rule is a rule, I still think this was a chance to find that happy middle ground. It isn’t like the kid is overage or isn’t enrolled. Having mulled it over and slept on it, I believe that the league should have not forfeited the matches. It isn’t like Serrano didn’t finish his elementary education – he repeated and did. It isn’t even negligence or oversight. I cannot put my finger on how best to describe this. If St. Vincent’s, Malayan, and Adamson all have the same story then that should have been also given weight.
While I understand the UAAP’s side, it’s a sad thing and we also feel for Adamson and Serrano feeling aggrieved.
As that song of Lesley Gore went, “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”
Yes, this is something everyone should all cry about. And next time to really fine tune those rules and for everyone to pay attention to detail because we all know that in collegiate sports, games aren’t always won on the court.