Citizenship not automatic for Hardeman

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - SBP legal counsel Aga Francisco said the other day former NCAA Division II All-American Kelly Hardeman, who was born and raised in the Philippines, will require approval by the courts or Congress to be issued a Filipino passport for eligibility to play for the Perlas national team as a naturalized citizen.

Francisco, who is also a member of the FIBA legal commission, explained that under the principle of jus sanguinis, Hardeman isn’t qualified to become a Filipino citizen by virtue of birth because she is a full-blooded American. Jus soli is the principle where citizenship is acquired in the place of birth while jus sanguinis is determined by blood lineage through parents or ancestors. Jus soli is the more common means to acquire citizenship in other countries but in the Philippines, jus sanguinis is recognized by law.

“To be eligible to play for the Philippines, Kelly has to be a naturalized citizen and that means going through the courts or Congress,” said Francisco. “If you go the way of the courts, it’s a long process that could take about two years. In Congress, it could be fast-tracked if there is urgency in approving the naturalization at the House of Representatives and the Senate. That would depend on the proponents. In Andray Blatche’s case, his naturalization was processed through Congress over three months.”

Perlas head coach Pat Aquino said he hopes to suit up Hardeman for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 19-31. So time is of the essence to initiate Hardeman’s naturalization proceedings. “We need to move fast,” said Perlas team manager Dioceldo Sy. “Kelly is expected in Manila on May 23. We will consult with the SBP on the steps to take to complete the process.”

Francisco said once Hardeman is issued a Filipino passport, FIBA clearance will be automatic. “First of all, if Hardeman is given a Filipino passport, she will be the Philippines’ only naturalized player as FIBA allows only one per national team,” he said. “It’s also a FIBA requirement that a naturalized citizen may play for only one country in his or her basketball career. Blatche, for instance, is allowed to play only for the Philippines as a national player in FIBA competitions and no other country.”

Hardeman, 23, was born at St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City and has lived in the Philippines for 18 years until she enrolled at Asuza Pacific, a private Christian school near Los Angeles. She played four years at Asuza Pacific then saw action for BK Ameger in the Danish league.

“I was approached to play for the Philippines by Mr. Sy,” said Hardeman. “I am honored with the opportunity to play for the Philippines and I hope my teammates and I can make awesome memories playing the sport that we love. I’m a team player and look forward to the opportunity to play with my new teammates.”

Hardeman described herself as a two-way player. “I’m most similar to Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs,” she said. “I take pride in my defense and let it fuel my offense. My biggest strength on offense is my shot. In the game, I don’t hesitate to sacrifice my body for the ball. I want to be the hardest worker on the floor and I hope I can lead with my work ethic and fit into the role that the team needs me to fill.”

“My dream is to qualify our women’s team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” said Sy. “It’s a tough job but Kelly’s presence will boost our chances.” The Philippines has never qualified to play in women’s basketball since it was introduced in the Olympics in 1976. The US has won eight gold medals, including the last six. South Korea took the silver in 1984 and China also finished second in 1992. At the 2020 Olympics, the champions of the World Cup, Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania are allotted a slot each. Host Japan has an automatic ticket. The remaining slots will be given to the top five finishers of a qualifying tournament.  

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