FORMER PBA commissioner Noli Eala emphasized the strict citizenship requirements for Fil-foreign draft hopefuls are there to safeguard the league from having to deal with another influx of "Fil-Shams."
"I believe the requirements are there for a reason. And those reasons remain as true today as they were two decades ago," Eala told Spin.ph.
Fil-foreign applicants are required to submit Department of Justice (DOJ) affirmations and Bureau of Immigration (BI) certifications well ahead of the rookie draft, giving the PBA ample time to review their documents.
Talks of relaxing these rules have surfaced in the past week, especially with documents being harder to secure for Fil-foreigners in government and consular officers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These papers must be submitted to the league, alongside other requirements, by January 27, leaving some high-profile Fil-Am prospects in danger of being ruled ineligible for the March 14 draft.
Potential first-round selections Jason Brickman, Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser, and Jeremiah Gray stand to benefit if the league chooses to relax these rules for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.
Those requirements have already been in place since the days of former commissioner Jun Bernardino, but were further strengthened following the Fil-Am boom of the 2000s.
Eala said more measures were put in place since then, assuring that only true Filipinos are admitted to the PBA.
"Due to the Fil-Sham controversy, I put in place processes to ensure that these requirements were properly vetted. Deadlines were set to give the league office enough time to go through the documents, and documents coming from consular offices abroad were required to have strict authentication," said the league chief from 2003 to 2007.
However, Eala noted that the league has also considered "lineage and bloodlines closely" when it comes to accepting Fil-foreign entrants.
"Players with Filipino parents at the time of their birth, regardless of status at the time of application, were not considered Fil-Ams. We really tackled those matters and any other variations," he said.
Current PBA rules state that players born in the country, as long as one of their parents is a Filipino, is considered a local.
On the other hand, players born overseas, regardless if their parents are both Filipinos, will be counted as Fil-foreigners and are required to secure the pertinent documents from the DOJ and BI.
Current commissioner Willie Marcial previously stated that the league is also open in accepting dual citizens, assuring their swift qualification for the draft pool.
Eala, though, noted that the PBA must be more welcoming to necessary tweaks in the eligibility rules to better suit the changing times.
"Many laws have been enacted since then as well as jurisprudence," he said.
"What the PBA needs to do is to make its rules more aligned to new legal tenets and relevant to the times. I believe the PBA must think more globally and less parochial, and more inclusive, not exclusive."