MANILA, Philippines – The Justice Committee of the House of Representatives yesterday voted in favor of two naturalization
bills that if enacted into law will make American Marcus Douthit and Chinese Xiaojing Zheng as Filipino citizens.
The committee, chaired by Neil Tupaz Jr. of Iloilo, voted 14-5 in favor of the bill, which was endorsed by Antipolo City solon Roberto Puno.
Puno said they are hoping to have the 6-10 Douthit naturalized in time for the Guangzhou Asian Games in November.
“Our target is naturalize Marcus Douthit on Nov. 12,” said Puno.
But it won’t be easy.
“This is not an ordinary request and we’re asking the congressmen to help us, we will try to get it for the Asian Games but there’s really no telling when,” he said.
Another committee hearing, perhaps two or three, will be set to discuss the issue and if things push through as planned, the bill will be discussed and debated on in a legislative plenary that should include the Senate for approval.
“We need to schedule another hearing and fast-track everything. If we achieve this, it will be the fastest naturalization process to be ever done in the history of the country,’’ said Puno.
He also mentioned the willingness of both players to accept Filipino citizenship. In fact, Puno said Douthit and Zheng have been residing in the country for quite some time now.
Douthit recently powered Smart Gilas Pilipinas to a second place finish in the fourth Asian Basketball Association Club Championship in Haining, China.
“The Justice Committee approved naturalization bills of Douthit for Smart Gilas and Xiaojing Zheng for our women’s team,” said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Noli Eala.
“It’s just a first baby step, many more obstacles to hurdle. We hope we’ll overcome these obstacles,” he said.
SBP chief Manny V. Pangilinan welcomed the news.
“The SBP is truly grateful for the support and magnanimity of the members of the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives for heeding our appeal for help to boost the national team’s quest to return our country to basketball glory,” said Pangilinan.
“We will strive to be worthy of the confidence reposed upon the SBP and Smart Gilas by members of Congress,” he added.
Aside from the Guangzhou joust, Douthit is being eyed to join Smart Gilas in next year’s FIBA-Asia Championship in Beirut, Lebanon with a berth in 2012 London Olympics at stake.
Zheng, for her part, is being tipped to reinforce the lady cagers in the Southeast Asian Games.
Joey Villar, Philippine Star