MANILA: Six professional basketball players have been told to leave the Philippines voluntarily or face deportation after the government accused them of faking their citizenship to play in the country's premier league.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales ordered deportation proceedings initiated against four Americans, a Tongan and an Australian after a Senate inquiry last year concluded they used fake birth certificates purportedly showing their parents were natural-born Filipinos, to claim their Filipino papers.
The Senate has conducted an exhaustive investigation and they have found no records to back the claim of these players that they are Filipino citizens, Gonzales told reporters. The justice department said the orders were to be served to the players yesterday.
Since we have already determined that they are undocumented aliens, we could order them detained pending the conclusion of the deportation proceedings against them, Gonzalez said. If they don't want to experience this, they have the option of leaving the country voluntarily.
He also directed police investigators to look into possible perjury and falsification charges against team owners, managers, talent scouts and civil registrars who allegedly issued spurious documents to the players.
The players include Davonn Harp, Jon Ordonio and Mick Pennisi of Red Bull Barako, Rudy Hatfield of Coca-Cola and Alex Crisano of Barangay Ginebra. All are starters.
Asi Taulava of Talk N Text was also ordered deported, but before that, Gonzales told the attorney general to lift a preliminary injunction the player had secured from a Manila court in a bid to prevent his deportation.
Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner Noli Eala said the players can file a court appeal but can no longer play.
Hatfield, last week's player of the week in the Philippine Basketball Association's cup competition, insisted he is a Filipino.
I grew up as a Filipino in the states and I'm proud to say I'm a Filipino. I don't understand why all of these things are happening, the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying. AP