Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno (1st district, Antipolo) led his fellow members in the House of Representatives in congratulating  the Gilas Pilipinas national team for capturing the silver medal in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship, which earned for  the Philippines a coveted slot in the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in Spain next year.

Describing the Gilas Pilipinas’ silver victory as “a glorious day for Philippine sports, Puno said the team’s achievement is also   “the triumph of the undying Filipino competitive spirit, and unrelenting will to succeed.”

Puno of the National Unity Party (NUP) also called on Congress to further strengthen the country’s chances in the FIBA World Cup in 2014 by naturalizing through legislation more athletes that would serve as additional players in the national team.

The deputy speaker had spearheaded efforts in the House to grant Philippine citizenship by naturalization to  Marcus Eugene Douhit, one of the star players in the  Gilas Pilipinas team who contributed immensely to the country’s triumphant return to one of the two top slots in the FIBA Asia basketball competition.  Senators Miguel Zubiri and Francis Escudero filed the counterpart bill in the Senate granting Philippine citizenship to Douhit.

Douhit was naturalized through Republic Act 10148, which became a law in March  2011.

“Through the unparalled team effort, strong determination and unswerving commitment of Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippines was able to register its strongest finish yet in 27 years in the FIBA Asia Championship,”  Puno said in his privilege speech delivered Monday night.

“Thank you Gilas Pilipinas. Thank you for the gift of pride,” Puno added.

He also filed Resolution No. 182, which recognized the impressive performance of Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Finals. “The Gilas Pilipinas team’s impressive showing not only elevated the Philippines’ stature in international basketball competitions to world-class level, but also brought honor and national pride to our countrymen,” Puno said in his resolution.

Puno said that to surpass the Philippines’ sterling performance this year, Congress needs  to continue the program of naturalizing by legislation exceptional athletes who can substantially contribute to the national team.

“There is still much work to be done. We have achieved our objective of securing a slot in the FIBA World Cup, but not our dream of becoming Asian champions,” Puno said.

He said at least two more players are needed to serve as backup to one another in case any of them get injured. “The Philippine National team avoids the inconvenience of jeopardizing the whole program in the event of an injury to any of our two naturalized players.”

His proposal is not unique as this has been the practice of many countries which have brought in naturalized players to their respective national teams, Puno said.

Puno cited the cases of Qatar, which has naturalized American nationals such as Jarvis Hayes, Trey Johnson and Boney Watson; Lebanon, which has naturalized Loren Woods, Joe Vogel and Jackson Vroman;  South Korea, which naturalized Jaron Stevenson aka Moon Tae-Jong and Greg Stevenson aka Moon Tae-young, as well as Eric Sandrin aka Lee Seung Jun.

The deputy speaker also congratulated and thanked the Philippine coaches headed by Chot Reyes; the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas led by business leader Manuel V. Pangilinan; the Philippine Basketball Association and its member teams and the members of Congress who supported his efforts to naturalize Douhit.

He said four key factors contributed to the success of Gilas: 1) a long-term program; 2)  the support of the Philippine Basketball Association which lent its best players and adjusted schedules so that the team could remain fully committed to the cause; 3) financial support from business leaders like Danding Cojuangco and  Pangilinan; and  4) the naturalization of its top player —Douhit.

Puno said the team’s victory should also be shared with the Filipino people, who rooted for Gilas and were “one with the entire nation in the belief that we will once again regain basketball supermacy in Asia.”

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