Granting of Filipino citizenship through legislation is not an easy task. Of the 13 bills of such nature filed in the previous congress, only one was enacted into law. Republic Act 10148 granted Gilas big man Marcus Douthit Philippine citizenship.
A similar bill filed in the 15th Congress, House Bill 2683, was supposed to grant citizenship to six-foot-three women’s basketball player Xiaojing Zheng. It passed in the lower house but languished in the senate.
From now until July, it’s a race against time for Puno in the lower house.
“Kailangan natin ikutan yung mga adjournment ng congress,” added Puno in an interview with Spin.ph. The congress will take a break from March 14 to May 4, further trimming the time to get things going. Puno added that they set the record with the fastest approval for citizenship with Douthit at seven months.
This time, they plan to do it in a bit over one:
“Kailangan kong ma-approve sa congress by March 14 and that would give the senate time to approve their counterpart bill [the Angara bill] between May 5 and June 13.”
Puno also has to get the support of Congress’ Justice committee and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Jr.
The elder Belmonte took convincing the last time around, when it was Douthit’s naturalization on the table. “Critical yung suporta ni Speaker [Belmonte] kasi pag sumuporta si Speaker, lahat sasabay,” said Puno. With FIBA allowing only one naturalized player to suit up, Belmonte may need even more convincing now that Puno is asking for a “pool” of naturalized players, especially when it seems that players may be granted citizenship even if they will not be able to play.
“Baka hindi rin umabot [si McGee] but he’s our first choice,” Puno added. “Pinakiusap ni Chot [Reyes] sakin kung pwedeng dalawahin na natin subukan i-naturalize.”