MANILA, Philippines - Amid protests from militant lawmakers, the House of Representatives voted yesterday to grant Filipino citizenship to former Los Angeles Lakers second round draft pick Marcus Eugene Douthit to allow him to possibly play in the Philippine team for the Asian Games next month.
However, the chamber was not able to vote on the same citizenship bid for Chinese national Xiaopjing Zheng, who has been drafted to join the Philippine women’s basketball team, due to the start of the budget deliberations on the floor.
Voting 212-9, the Congress approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 2307 granting the 6-10 Douthit full Philippine citizenship. The measure was principally authored by Antipolo Rep. Roberto Puno.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño voted against the measure, saying the country cannot resort to import foreigners just because the government has been failing in its sports programs.
Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said the granting of citizenships by Congress would set a “dangerous precedent” since the foreigners’ nationalism has yet to be proven.
Puno, however, defended the measure, saying the FIBA has long re-defined what could constitute a national team, which includes 11 natural-born citizens and one naturalized player.
He said foreigners have three modes of acquiring Filipino citizenship, including through judicial processes and through an act of Congress.
Puno said lawmakers have full discretion on the matter because the Constitution is quiet on the guidelines.
Puno said the last time the country hosted a basketball championship was in the mid-1980s when the late President Ferdinand Marcos granted citizenship to three American players.
“If we are not going to use this prerogative we are not going to regain our lost basketball glory,” he said.
With the Congress approval, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will now decide who to drop from among the 12-man roster it had submitted to the Philippine Olympic Committee last month to accommodate Douthit.
Top guards Chris Tiu and Mark Barroca head the list that includes pros Asi Taulava and Kelly Williams. The SBP also included in the lineup Mac Baracael, JV Casio, Dylan Ababou, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Jason Ballesteros, Marcio Lassiter and Aldrech Ramos.
Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman, however, hinted at some minor changes in the roster, especially if some players sustain injury, before the Asiad slated Nov. 12-27 in Guangzhou, China.
Earlier, Fil-Am Chris Lutz also obtained his RP passport and is also being considered to be included in the Asiad roster.
Butch Antonio, deputy Smart Gilas project director, said Douthit may apply for a separate accreditation, which will eventually be coursed through the POC working committee headed by Joey Romasanta.
Paolo Romero, Philippine Star[