MANILA, Philippines - The Senate bill granting citizenship to Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche by naturalization is expected to be passed on third reading this afternoon but to beat the May 30 deadline for the SBP to submit his passport number for eligibility to play in the coming Asian Games, President Aquino’s approval of the consolidated measure is critical in the next few days.
The House of Representatives bill authored by Rep. Robbie Puno was passed on third reading last March then it went to the Senate for discussion at the Committee on Justice level before submission for first, second and third reading at the Senate Hall. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Sonny Angara. Once the Senate approves the bill this afternoon, the consolidated measure will be transmitted to Malacanang.
Under the law, the bill will lapse into law within 30 days if the President does not act on it, meaning no veto. But if the President signs it within 30 days of submission, it will immediately become a law. Close coordination with the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Justice and Department of Foreign Affairs is crucial in issuing a Philippine passport to Blatche without delay after the bill becomes a law.
Blatche, 27, recently visited the Philippine consulate in New York City to sign a sworn affidavit expressing his commitment to play for the Gilas national squad. The affidavit was subscribed and sworn to before Cynthia Raia, notary public of New Jersey. A notarial certificate was subsequently issued by Consul Felipe Carino in a red ribbon document.
In his statement, Blatche affirmed his intention “to mingle with Filipinos and embrace the customs, traditions and ideals of the Filipino people.” He added, “it would be very intriguing to learn how to communicate with the (Filipino) language, however, my focus will be on playing basketball and interacting with my teammates as well as the fans of the Philippines.”
By choosing to play for the Philippines in FIBA competitions, Blatche renounces his right to play for any other country, including the US. He will be allowed to play exclusively for the Philippines in FIBA-regulated tournaments such as the World Cup and the Olympics throughout his basketball career.
“I want to play for Gilas Pilipinas as I saw them last year when they qualified for the World Cup due to placing in the Asian Championship FIBA Games,” he said. “It is exciting to me to have the opportunity to be able to participate in my offseason.” Blatche also said there is no pending criminal, civil or administrative case against him in the US or in any other country.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes said Blatche was invited to play for Gilas during the NBA season so that he was unable to fly over here for a visit. It was Blatche’s former Washington Wizards teammate JaVale McGee who broached the idea of playing for Gilas. McGee, who has visited the Philippines twice, was Gilas’ first choice for naturalization but isn’t able to play in the FIBA World Cup in Spain on Aug. 30-Sept. 14 and the Asian Games in Incheon on Sept. 19-Oct. 4 because of injury.
Gilas’ current naturalized player Marcus Douthit and Blatche will be lined up in the 24-man roster for the World Cup and Asian Games. The cast will later be cut to 12 to include either Douthit or Blatche as FIBA limits every country to only one naturalized player. Douthit, 34, said he’s ready to play but won’t mind taking a backseat to Blatche if it’s for the good of the team.
Blatche, the Wizards’ second round pick in the 2005 draft, has played nine years in the NBA, the last two with the Brooklyn Nets. He has averaged in double figure points in five of the nine seasons. When Blatche was with the Wizards, he scored a career-high 36 points in a game against the Nets and nearly notched a triple double with 20 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists in another contest against the Nets, both during the 2009-10 season. He averaged 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 33.9 minutes in 64 games with the Wizards in 2010-11. This season, Blatche hit at an 11.2 clip as a reserve with the Nets.
Former Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson once cited Blatche for his “great positive energy” and work ethic in reporting early for work in the gym to get into shape. Blatche once underwent a rigid conditioning program under former NBA player and coach John Lucas. Pro Basketball Prospectus said there is doubt that Blatche is talented. “He’s skilled for a big man with good vision from the high post and range out to 20 feet,” the Prospectus said.
After Washington waived Blatche via the amnesty clause in 2012, he spurned an offer to join the Miami Heat and signed a non-guaranteed, make-good, one-year contract with the Nets. He had to earn a roster spot with no obligation from the Nets to keep him on the team. To signify his climb from rock bottom, Blatche wore No. 0 on his jersey. Blatche was later re-signed to a one-year extension. He now plans to become a free agent on June 30. Since the start of his NBA journey, Blatche has bankrolled over $31 Million. So playing for Gilas isn’t about the money. Blatche is excited to play for a country where he knows, basketball is the No. 1 sport.