Court grants TRO for UP swimmer, orders UAAP to not impose 2-year rule

The UAAP Board has been ordered to cease and desist from imposing the two-year residency rule. (George Calvelo (NPPA Images))

A Quezon City Regional Trial Court has granted the request of University of the Philippines swimmer Anna Dominique "Mikee" Bartolome for a temporary restraining order against the two-year residency rule, also known as the Jerie Pingoy Rule, and ordered the Universities Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) to refrain from imposing it on Bartolome for a period of 20 days.

In a decision handed down by Judge Manuel Sta. Cruz, Jr., a copy of which was e-mailed to Yahoo Philippines, the Quezon City RTC ordered the UAAP to "cease and desist from imposing the two-year residency rule and allow the plaintiff Anna Dominique Bartolome to be eligible in the UP swimming lineup so that she can participate in the UAAP swimming competition this coming September 19, 2013."

In granting the TRO, the court noted that this was "a matter of extreme urgency", since the deadline for schools to submit their lineups for the swimming competition is September 4, and that the petitioner, Bartolome, "will not be able to join because of the two-year residency rule."

RELATED: Dad of UP swimmer seeks TRO against UAAP's Jerie Pingoy rule

Bartolome's camp argued that the Pingoy Rule "violated the rights of the plaintiff" and that "the violation sought to be prevented" would cause irreparable damage.

The UAAP and Bartolome's previous school the University of Sto. Tomas were both named defendants in the case. In defense of their imposition of the two-year rule, the league argued that:

1. Playing in the UAAP is not a matter of right but a mere privilege;
2. the two-year-residency rule is not arbitrary, oppressive, high-handed and/or whimsical;
3. the two-year residency rule does not violate the Constitution nor existing laws; does not prohibit, restrict or curtail the right or freedom of choice of [Bartolome]; and
4. Petitioner (Bartolome) has no actual, existing and unmistakable right to be entitled to a TRO.

UST, meanwhile, argued the following points:

1. The plaintiff has no clear and unmistakable legal right to restrain defendant UAAP from further applying the two-year residency rule;
2. The plaintiff failed to show that she will suffer grave irreparable damage or injury if the TRO is not issued;
3. It is the defendants who stand to suffer grave and irreparable damage if the application for the issuance of TRO is granted; and
4. The High Court has no jurisdiction over the person of UST.

The UAAP swimming competitions, where UP is the five-time defending champion in the women's division, will run from September 19 to 23, meaning it is covered by the TROs 20-day period.

RELATED: Cayetano asks UAAP Board to recall new residency rule

The league imposed the new rule in April 2013, an apparent offshoot of FEU juniors star Jerie Pingoy's decision to enroll in Ateneo for college. Senator Pia Cayetano, a staunch critic of the rule, organized a Senate hearing to give the UAAP a chance to air its side. Cayetano urged the Board to reconsider its new rule, and the league softened its stand somewhat by allowing a school to waive the two-year residency if it so chooses.

In the case of Bartolome, her father wrote to UST Sports Director Ermito De Sagun, OP, to request for her voluntary release and allow her to compete for UP right away. The elder Bartolome claimed he never received a response from De Sagun, prompting them to seek the TRO.

While the TRO covers only Bartolome, it could set a precedent as other athletes affected by the Pingoy rule can now resort to the same tactic.

The RTC has scheduled a hearing for the issuance of preliminary injunction on September 11, where both sides will continue to argue for their respective positions.