Brooklyn Nets veteran center Andray Blatche is just a step away of becoming a Filipino citizen and will help Gilas Pilipinas in its campaign in the FIBA World Cup in Spain on August and the Asian Games in Korea on September.
THE bill that will make the Brooklyn back-up center a naturalized Filipino is now on the table of President Noynoy Aquino awaiting his signature.
Antipolo Rep. Robbie Puno, the bill's main proponent, told Spin.ph that the two versions of the bill have already been passed by the two houses of Congress, meaning the legislative process of tapping Blatche for Gilas Pilipinas has already been completed.
"Tuesday, Senate officially submitted to the House of Representatives. Same day we adopted their version, we concurred their version," said Puno, one of the top supporters in Congress of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
"Tapos na lahat ng legislation side."
Puno revealed that the bill has already been signed for endorsement to Malacanang by Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales and House secretary general Marilyn Barua-Yap last Wednesday. Their Senate counterparts Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and Senate secretary-general Oscar Yabes did the same a day later.
The bill was transmitted to Malacanang on Friday.
Puno sounded very optimistic after being asked when he expects the bill to be signed by the President for it to be executed into a law.
"We feel pipirmahan yan ng presidente. Ayaw naman natin siya pangunahan. Pero we've been told that he will support it, " Puno said. "We're just hoping and praying that he'll sign it as soon as possible kasi I was told Blatche is arriving on the first or second week of June."
Puno is also hopeful that when Blatche arrives, he can immediately take his oath of allegiance and can already be issued a Philippine passport.
Once he becomes a naturalized Filipino, the 6-11 NBA center is expected to be activated by Gilas coach Chot Reyes for two important tournaments - the FIBA Asia Cup, who will be a preparatory tournament leading to the world championships in August.
But even if the President doesn't sign, Blatche's naturalization will lapse into law after 30 days unless Aquino vetoes the bill.
"Technically speaking, the President has an absolute power to veto any law. If he wants to do that, he can do it," said the congressman sportsman. "But we are told nga, the President is all out in supporting our national team, so if he does neither (sign or not) the bill will become a law. Wag lang i-veto."
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios is also praying that the Blatche bill will be completed at the soonest possible time.
The former PBA commissioner believes that Blatche's addition to the national team will raise the level of competitiveness of the tea.
And furthermore would add height and depth to our FIBA World Cup-bound squad.
"Undoubtedly he will give us a new dimension. On paper malaking bagay sa atin 'yan. Kasi active NBA player 'yan and everything is going for him," said Barrios.
"We are hopeful that it will be acted upon the soonest. Para makapag-simula ng mag-ensayo si Blatche," said Barrios. "We are confident that our hardworking president feels the pulse of the people and he will do what he feels is good for the people."
Expect the Filipino die-hard fans to support Blatche's naturalization as he will be a great additional to our national team.
--- with reports from Spin.ph
President Noynoy Aquino's signature is the final piece of the puzzle to Andray Blatche's naturalization
Reviewed by Jay-R Bayon-on