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Why not DNA testing to determine dual citizenship?

MANILA, Philippines — SBP executive director Sonny Barrios is hoping that someday, FIBA will allow DNA testing as a way to establish heritage in granting eligibility for a dual citizen to play for the country of choice as a local, regardless of when a passport was issued, and not as a naturalized import.

Barrios said the concept of DNA testing has been suggested to FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann and FIBA sports development director Zoran Radovic but so far, the issue has not gone beyond the discussion stage.

FIBA began its crackdown on foreigners disguised as locals during the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan in 2011 when five imports were disqualified for passing themselves off as Qatari nationals. One of the ineligible players was Tanguy Ngombo who was the Dallas Mavericks second round pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Ngombo is from the Congo but claimed to be a native Qatari.

Under FIBA rules, a national team is restricted to enlist only one naturalized import. So when Qatar brought in five Africans holding Qatari passports, FIBA put its foot down. With a depleted lineup, Qatar lost two games by default. The first was to Uzbekistan in a contest that was halted with 2:18 left in the first quarter and only one eligible Qatari player on the floor. The score was 27-12 for Uzbekistan. The second was to Iran as Qatar had only one eligible player on the court with the count 40-4, time down to 4:02 in the first period.

To avoid a repeat of the Wuhan fiasco, FIBA later ruled that dual citizens may play for the country of choice as locals only if they were issued their passports before turning 16. The argument was a country is likely to recruit imports with experience so that they would be at least over 16, making it nearly impossible to gain classification as locals. The downside is a country like the Philippines, with Fil-foreigners all over the world, has become a victim of collateral damage.

It’s no problem for a Fil-foreigner to suit up for Gilas as a local if born in the Philippines but a Fil-foreigner born outside of the Philippines will only be eligible as a naturalized import if issued a Philippine passport after turning 16. That means legitimate Fil-foreigners like Jordan Clarkson, Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle may only play for Gilas as naturalized imports because they were issued Philippine passports after turning 16. However, as Fil-foreigners with a legitimate Philippine passport, they enjoy the privileges of a Filipino citizen as provided by the Constitution.

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Barrios said the SBP isn’t suggesting to remove FIBA’s under-16 passport rule. “I think the under-16 rule has withstood the test of time,” he said. “Why change it? It has achieved the purpose of cleaning up the rosters of national teams. But what about those players who are dual citizens with bloodlines and received their passports after turning 16? Surely, they deserve consideration and protection of their human rights. Our proposal is to keep the under-16 rule and allow DNA testing by exception to establish eligibility of dual citizens with blood heritage as locals, not as naturalized imports, regardless of when they were issued their passports.”

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