MANILA, Philippines - The Senate committee on justice has adopted House Bill 2307, approving the application for naturalization of American basketball standout Marcus Douthit.
While Senate Bill No. 2559 has passed the committee level, it has to be approved at the plenary and it has to be done today to ensure Douthit’s inclusion in the roster of Smart Gilas national team for the Asian Games set Nov. 12-28 in Guangzhou, China.
Congress will have its last session day today as it will adjourn for a three-week break.
Senate committee on justice chairman Francis Escudero said the Samahan Basketbol ng Pilipinas should have President Benigno Aquino III certify the measure as urgent no later than this morning so that Congress can act on the measure during today’s session.
If the SBP fails to do this, the earliest Congress can act on the bill would be on Nov. 7.
This would make it very difficult for Douthit to make it to the RP team because once the measure is approved by Congress and signed by the President, it would have to be published in two major dailies in order to take effect.
After that Douthit will apply for a Philippine passport, a requirement for inclusion in the RP team.
The 6-11 Douthit was a star center for Providence College and was drafted No. 56 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA draft.
Douthit told the senators that he has every intention of staying in the country and helping the Philippines secure a medal in the Asian Games and a spot in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Smart Gilas head coach Rajko Toroman admitted that there is no guarantee that naturalized players such as Douthit would remain active as a national team player because there have been many cases in various countries where these players have opted out after a few years.
However, Toroman noted that he has worked with many American recruits before Douthit and that it is in Douthit that he saw the commitment to stay in the country long term.
Toroman pointed out that Douthit brought his wife and daughter over and that this is proof of his commitment to stay in the country.
SBP executive director Noli Eala told the committee that Douthit would not only help bring back the glory days of Philippine basketball but would also help younger players of the team develop their game.
Douthit had extensive experience in the NBA D-League and the European leagues.
The Office of the Solicitor General posed no objections to the grant of naturalization to Douthit because it is within the plenary power of Congress.
But the Bureau of Immigration raised concern about the amount of time – 76 days – Douthit has spent in the country.
It was also noted that he has not proven his contribution to the national team with his short stint in the country.
Eala emphasized that Douthit has played with the Smart Gilas squad in at least three international tournaments during which the Philippines was able to finish with respectable records.
He also reminded the senators that the last time the Philippines was able to secure a gold medal in the Asian Games was in the 1980s when the Northern Consolidated Cement team formed by businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco had three naturalized players in Chip Engeland, Jeff Moore and Dennis Steele.
The SBP actually submitted another player for naturalization, Zheng Xiaojing of China for the women’s national team, but according to Eala they had to defer this because the House of Representatives wanted to see how Douthit performs first as a test case.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said that Douthit has already shown his worth during his brief stint with Smart Gilas and would be vital cog in the country’s hope to bring the Philippines back to the forefront of international basketball.
Marvin Sy, Philippine Star