by: J.D. Garcia (Photo from: PBA Images)
Have you ever, while channel surfing, come across a basketball league with a bunch of old dudes playing organized ball? Where the players are just as tall as normal Filipinos and the pace of the game is like 2K with no turbo (actually, a lot slower still)? If you have, then you’d likely be familiar with the UNTV Cup (if you haven’t, then there’s more reason for you to read on). The UNTV Cup is the government’s version of an organized basketball league (here’s the website if you’re curious: https://www.untvweb.com/untvcup/). It’s where TESDA Man, Senator Joel Villanueva, struts his stuff decades after being a member of the UST Growling Tigers in the 90s (yes, you read that right).
Recently, news arose about the bearer of our favorite silky smooth moustache and national hero, Senator Manny Pacquiao, regarding his inclusion in the Philippine Senate’s team in the UNTV Cup – the Senate Defenders. Pacquiao had already begun practicing with the Senate Defenders with the intention of joining the team’s roster and forming the team’s own version of a big three with Senators Pacquiao, Villanueva, and Sonny Angara (who has way more range than Steph Curry, here’s proof). There had already been press releases on Pacquiao’s inclusion in the team and the team roster actually names Pacquiao as player and coach. However, upon learning this, the Philippine Basketball Association (“PBA”) reminded Pacquiao that he is prohibited from joining other basketball leagues due to his UPC.
No, UPC is not Ultimate Pighting Championship. It means Uniform Players Contract, which is the agreement that all PBA players sign with their respective teams to cover all their duties, responsibilities, and obligations as professional basketball players. The UPC is a contract between players and teams but there are provisions there that subject the contract and the players to the rules and regulations of the PBA. UPCs are also subject to the approval of the PBA.
So what does the UPC say exactly about players joining other basketball leagues? What’s the basis of the PBA for not allowing Pacquiao to play in the UNTV? The UPC states that where a team alleges that its player plays, attempts or threatens to play, or negotiates an agreement for the purpose of playing for, any other person, firm, corporation or organization (e.g. UNTV Cup) during the term of his UPC, it [the team] has the right to obtain from any court or arbitrator any appropriate relief, including an order to enjoin the player from playing and pursuing any further act in breach of the UPC. In addition, the UPC likewise expressly states that both the team and the player acknowledge and agree that the player’s participation in other sports may impair his ability and skill as a basketball player. So much so that the player cannot, without the written consent of the team, engage in any game or exhibition. Basically, players under contract with teams in the PBA cannot play for or in another team or league. Pacquiao cannot therefore play for the Senate Defenders on the basis of the UPC.
But what if Pacquiao insists on playing in the UNTV Cup? We go back to the UPC. Among the many obligations and covenants of players in the UPC include the agreement to observe and comply with all of the requirements of the team, including the conditions of the UPC. Any violation thereof will be subject to fines and/or suspension. The fines may not only be imposed by the team itself but also by the PBA commissioner. Furthermore, the team has the option to terminate the contract upon written notice to the player if he, in any manner, materially breaches the UPC. Simply put, if Pacquiao plays for the Senate Defenders, the Mahindra Enforcers has the following options: (1) seek an order to enjoin Pacquiao from playing (and get whatever reasonable relief the court may grant, perhaps monetary damages?); and (2) impose a fine or suspend or terminate his contract.
The provisions of the UPC are legally binding. From the perspective of contract law, parties are free to establish stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions that they may agree to, provided that they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. Philippine jurisprudence refers to this concept as the “Freedom to stipulate,” which is one of the pillars of Philippine contract law. Unfortunately for Pacquiao, by signing the UPC he bound himself, willingly and voluntarily, to the provisions thereof that were freely agreed upon by the parties.
If Pacquiao wants to take his talents to the Senate Defenders and the UNTV Cup, he will have to deal with the consequences of breaching his UPC. Until then, TESDA Man and Curry Angara will have to look for another senator to form their big three (I think there’s a big man in the Senate).
J.D. Garcia is an editor of Batas Sportiva. He would’ve been part of the Senate Defenders’ Big Four if he ran and won in last May’s elections—he didn’t.
 Clause 10, UPC.
 Clause 16, UPC.
 Clause 5, UPC.
 Clause 16, UPC.
 Clause 19 par. b, subpar. c.
 Article 1306, Civil Code of the Philippines.
 Republic vs. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, G.R. No. L-18841.