MANILA, Philippines – Barring anymore hitches, Andray Blatche is set to become Gilas Pilipinas' new naturalized center next month.
Blatche’s naturalization process is now 50 percent complete as it already passed the second reading at the Senate last Monday.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who earlier expressed reservations, backed out from questioning the move after getting his hands on a sworn affidavit that Blatche personally executed in the Philippine Embassy in New York City.
Estrada, who received flak from Filipino basketball fans last week, cleared the smoke during the second reading of the Senate Bill 2108.
“Let me put on record that I am not blocking the measure granting Filipino citizenship to Mr. Andray Blatche. That is not my purpose when I stood in this august hall,” said Estrada in story ran by Yahoo Philippines on Monday.
Estrada, who once owned a basketball team in the now defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), said he is one with the whole nation in hoping for a good showing by Gilas Pilipinas in the coming FIBA World Cup in Spain this August.
“When I posed certain questions regarding the bill granting Mr. Blatche Filipino citizenship, it was not for the purpose of preventing him to eventually play for the Philippine Team in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. As a basketball aficionado myself, I want to see our national team succeed and become world champions,” Estrada explained.
“I rise because I am vehemently against the apparently arbitrary and seemingly two-pence procedure of conferring citizenship through legislation. I strongly believe that someone has to put a stop to this practice. As the good sponsor of this measure, Senator Sonny Angara, has said, “citizenship is not an ordinary privilege bestowed to any individual.” To be a Filipino citizen comes with a great responsibility. Thus, Congress must be very judicious in the exercise of its power in granting Filipino citizenship through legislation,” Estrada added.
“Kung ang pagbibigay nga ng Filipino citizenship under administrative or judicial process ay parang dumadaan ka sa butas ng karayom at taon pa ang binibilang, because one has to go through a very stringent and strict screening process, aba’y dapat ganoon din ka-sinop at ka-busisi kung ito ay sa pamamagitan ng pagsasabatas," he continued.
Blatche once again reiterated his desire to become a naturalized Filipino and represent the country with pride in the international arena in a recent interview by NBA Philippines’ US-based correspondent Reynante Bulawan.
"Oh yeah, for sure, man. I was very, very excited when I heard about the (naturalization) opportunity. I said 'you know, that sounds cool.' I was just thankful that they even thought of me to come and help them over there. So I'm all for it. I'm all-in 100 percent." said Blatche.
Bulawan asked his willingness to represent the Philippines in international competition and Blatche replied with gusto: "Yes! That's what I'm talking about, tell them that!"
Meanwhile, national team head coach Chot Reyes welcomed the great news when he graced the press launch of Gilas’ partnership with Max’s Restaurant last Monday night.
“Naipasa na nga kanina yung 2nd reading. Hopefully, it will get through on Monday in the final reading then let’s wait for our President’s signature. We’re hoping he will sign it,” Reyes told Philstar.com.
President Benigno Aquino Jr. will then have 30 days to either veto or pass it into a law.
As free agency looms for Blatche this off-season, Reyes revealed that the plan is to bring the national team to Miami where the NBA nine-year veteran is based for a much needed training camp with him before flying to Spain.