BEING a Filipino is something one can be truly proud of.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda urged Andray Blatche to take pride in being a Filipino citizen after his naturalization papers were formally signed by President Aquino on Wednesday, paving the way for his inclusion in the Gilas Pilipinas team bound for the Fiba-World Cup in Spain.
“I can see he is already proud. Hindi pa nga napipirmahan 'yung bill and he is already happy and excited to learn to adopt the Filipino culture,” said Lacierda after Blatche was officially granted his citizenship through Republic Act 10636.
The Palace official added Blatche should not only take pride in being Filipino in the coming Fiba-World Cup, but also in the NBA where he plays for the Brooklyn Nets.
“I’d like to ask him (Blatche) to take time and really learn and appreciate the Philippine culture. He will not be disappointed. He will in fact be very, very pleased to know that his adopted country is really more fun and what he will expect,” added the amiable government official, who told Spin.ph how happy he is to see a certified NBA player don the national colors.
At the same time, Lacierda hopes Blatche’s Filipino link do not start and end with his Gilas stint in the Fiba-World Cup and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
“Yes, I hope that he will be proud of being a Filipino. Because our Filipino pride is there right now. Erik Spoelstra, the Miami Heat coach, he’s always been proud of his Filipino heritage,” he said.
“We hope that Mr. Blatche will also be proud of his adopted country if and when he goes back to the United States after learning so much of our culture here. I am sure he will enjoy and appreciate the Philippine culture,” he added.
“Hindi siya nagkamali ng piniling adopted country.”
Blatche indeed, had a blast in his first ever visit here this week as the former South Kent School stalwart immediately sampled the beauty and elegance of Boracay last Monday, going to the paradise island in the personal chopper of business tycoon and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny V. Pangilinan.
The Nets center was also accompanied by the country’s basketball officials in his visit to both the Senate and Congress to personally thank all the lawmakers who helped fast-track his naturalization.
According to Lacierda, it took only six working days for President Aquino to sign Blacthe’s naturalization, unlike the time of predecessor President Macapagal-Arroyo, who allowed the bill that naturalized big man Marcus Douthit to lapse into law.
Under the law, the President has 30 days to sign or veto a naturalization bill, which matures into law if no action is taken by the Chief Executive.
“The President saw merit in the discussion that it will help the cause of the country in international basketball. Nung sinabi nga ng both Houses of Congress that it will assist us in our quest for a championship in basketball, the President did support it, too,” he said.
“It was resoundingly endorsed by both Houses (of Congress), so that was what prevailed and that was what convinced the President to sign it.”
Meanwhile, SBP executive director Sonny Barrios also expressed happiness over the development, saying the federation is just waiting for the publication of the new law (Blatche Bill) before it begins finalizing Blatche’s inclusion in the national team.
“Kukunin natin sa opisina ng Presidente `yung dokumento na na-sign sa Office of the Executive Secretary sa Friday, holiday kasi bukas (Thursday) eh. Tapos hihintayin lang natin ang official publication nyan, kasama sa batas 'yun, tapos other documentary requirements na lang,” said Barrios.
Among the documentary requirements needed are a Bureau of Immigration naturalization certificate, a notarized oath of allegiance (already done by Blatche), and the application for a Philippine passport, something which Barrios expects to be completed by Wednesday next week.
“Basta lahat ng dokumentong 'yun nasa atin na, required kasi ng Fiba 'yan. So para pag nag-submit ng lineup si Chot (Reyes), kasama na si Blatche sa team natin,” he added.
Barrios also relayed his gratitude to the President, who he called as a true working leader and sports supporter.
“Dapat talaga tayong magpasalamat sa Presidente (dahil) despite his hectic schedule, he took time to review and sign this bill,” said the former PBA commissioner.
“This is a victory for Filipino basketball fans. We can’t do this without the help of President Aquino. We should also commend our President for helping us,” he added.