By MARIO CASAYURAN
Manila, Philippines – Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada has objected to a bill seeking to grant National Basketball Association (NBA) player Andray Blatche citizenship so he could play for the Gilas national basketball team in the FIBA World Cup and the Asian Games.
Estrada said granting citizenship for the sole purpose of playing for the Philippines “is such a flimsy excuse which would place the Senate in an embarrassing situation because it gives the impression that anyone who wishes to play may simply go to the Senate and acquire Philippine citizenship through legislation,’’ he said. Naturalized citizens could eventually go back to their native land and forget the Philippines, he added.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate games, amusement sports committee, said that Blatche, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, has expressed willingness to reside in the country during off season “and that he would be enjoying dual citizenship which is allowed in the country.’’
He said that Blatche would be renouncing his capacity to play for the US Olympic team by agreeing to play for the Philippine basketball team.
But Estrada expressed doubt on the wisdom of granting citizenship to a foreigner who would most likely leave the country immediately after playing for the Philippine team.
Estrada said he would only be convinced if Blatche renounces his American citizenship and expresses his willingness to reside in the country permanently.
Although he may be good at what he does, Estrada pointed out, Blatche has not yet contributed anything for the country that would justify the grant of citizenship through legislation.
There were other foreign nationals who have lived for many years in the Philippines but were never given the same privilege despite their similar desire to be granted Philippines citizenship, he said.
Angara said that Marcus Douthit, center of the Gilas basketball team, grew up with Blatche in the same neighborhood of Syracuse, New York.
Douthit is receiving the maximum allowable salary of P500,000 a month.
It was from Douthit that Blatche acquired a knowledge about the Philippines and that Douthit has been a very good player for the Philippine team from the time he was naturalized by legislation in 2010, Angara said.
The 28-year-old American player stands at 6’11’’ and averages 12 points and six rebounds per game in the National Basketball Association (NBA).