Sponsorship Speech:Student-Athletes Protection Act

Sponsorship Speech
Student Athletes Protection Act of 2014
Committee Report No. 29
19 May 2014

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Chairperson, Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture

Thank you, Mr. President.

I rise today in my unrelenting pursuit to protect the rights and freedoms of Student-Athletes in our country. In the past, I have battled against rulings that impede our country’s sports development, and today, I train the spotlight on a grave abuse of authority which threatens our youth’s participation in competitive sports, as well as their right to quality of education. In connection with this, I rise today, Mr. President, to sponsor Senate Bill No. 2226 under Committee Report No. 29 entitled, “AN ACT PROTECTING THE AMATEUR NATURE OF STUDENT-ATHLETES IN THE PHILIPPINES BY REGULATING THE RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT AND PROHIBITING THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF STUDENT-ATHLETES.”

This coming school year ushers in a new batch of college freshmen, desirous of achieving higher education in the course of further developing themselves, and among these young hopefuls are Student-Athletes. One would think that these Student-Athletes would have the pick of schools but this is not the case for many of them, as their right to choose the school they want to study in is restricted by the “residency rules” imposed by athletic associations. What is a residency rule? It is a rule that requires a Student-Athlete who transfers from one school to another to sit out the incoming school year, in some cases, more than one school year — two years. In other words, “bangko” Mr. President. “Ibabangko sya” for one or two years. These kinds of residency rules are being imposed on:

• Students that transfer from high school to college;
• Students who transfer from college to college; and
• Students within high schools.

During our numerous hearings and consultations, it was established that athletes thrive during competition. And to deprive an athlete of this, to bench them for a significant period, could be damaging to their physical development as well as their emotional and mental state. It is also clear that the residency rules were meant to address piracy. In fact, this is the root of the problem.

I agree, Mr. President, that piracy, when it includes the offer of extravagant luxuries to Student-Athletes, should be prohibited. We must remember that the right to quality education is enshrined in the Constitution. The right to choose one’s school given that a student complies with the requirements should also not be impaired. Residency rules may, in fact, control piracy to some extent, but to sacrifice a Student-Athlete’s rights and wellbeing in exchange? While the vast majority of Student-Athletes are not similarly situated, all of these Student-Athletes pay the price of being benched for two (2) years should they deem it in their best interest to study in a school other than the school they came from. Pirating outstanding athletes from high school to college have become rampant because of offers of extravagant luxuries. Mr. President, Student-Athletes should not bear the burden of problems that schools, athletic associations, even alumni, impose upon themselves.

Case in point is swimmer Mikee Bartolome who graduated high school from UST and went to UP for college. She had long dreamt to study in UP, more so because her siblings are currently studying there. In fact, one is also a swimmer and a member of the varsity, and her father works for the UP’s coaching staff. However, Mikee’s previous high school did not release her, which meant she could not represent UP in any of the UAAP’S swimming competitions. Left with no choice, Mikee had to go to court to fight for her right to study in UP and to compete at the same time. Fortunately, the court rendered its decision and granted a TRO in favor of Mikee, in time for her to compete. However, come competition day, Mikee was boycotted by some member-schools of the UAAP which instructed their swimmers to either not show up or to remain on the blocks when the whistle was blown. Mikee mustered all the strength that she had and she still competed. With tears on her face while swimming, she won the swimming competition that day and was thereafter greeted and congratulated by other Student-Athletes, including her former teammates who boycotted her and did not join the competition. This just shows Mr. President that the problems lie not with the Student-Athletes but maybe with the parents, maybe with the coaching staff, maybe the alumni, the school officials, and the athletic associations. What price did Mikee have to bear? She was humiliated, she was tortured, and she swam despite the emotional baggage that she carried. Are these the values that we want to teach the youth?

Aside from Mikee, there are other athletes who are suffering because of these residency rules. Some high school athletes who were not initially taken by their university should have had the freedom to play for another university. Instead, they were not released by their school and were “parked” in their university’s Team B or Team C. God willing that these athletes would soar and don another jersey. But no, that would not be allowed, as the school has deemed it necessary to “park” these students instead of moulding them into the student leaders that they could be. They would rather clip their wings and “park” them in a training team.

Mr. President, we should be outraged by the traumatic experiences that these Student-Athletes have to go through. There are many of them but they abide by these rules because they are afraid. In some cases, there are Student-Athletes who choose to sit out on the bench for two years. Why? Because they have a younger sibling still in the high school who would lose their high school scholarship or who would incur the ire of the high school if the older sibling would fight for his right to play for the university of his choice.

So there are many situations Mr. President where it is very clear that so many of the Student-Athletes are suffering. By doing nothing, these deplorable incidents stand to be repeated, again and again, under the continued enforcement by various athletic associations of the so-called residency rules. I am heartened by the support from some athletic associations and individual schools. Nevertheless, the problem has reached all corners of the country and with the opening of a new school year, it is my simple desire that the Student-Athletes get what they deserve — the opportunity to study and play in the school of their choice.

Everyone has the right to education, and the Student-Athlete should not be stripped of such rights and freedom of choice the moment he wears his jersey.

Thank you Mr. President. #

Link to SBN 2226, Student-Athletes Protection Act of 2014
Link to Committee Report No.29

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