Manila, August 12, 2003 (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - The PBA ballclubs are willing to take the risk of being fined heavily as the league mulled on re-imposing an old policy governing players whose citizenship are under question.

The teams, specifically those having alleged "Fil-shams," are in favor of implementing the old policy to help protect the integrity of the league in the face of the new controversy sparked by the Senate report on these players.

It was their reaction to commissioner Noli Eala’s recommendation to adopt the rule that would place them at risk of being fined if they continue playing with their respective Fil-foreign players with citizenship problems.

The controversial issue will be formally tackled during the PBA board meeting at 12 noon today.

Players in question and being recommended by the Senate for summary deportation are Asi Taulava of Talk N Text, Rudy Hatfield of Coca Cola, Andy Seigle of Purefoods, Jon Ordonio of Alaska and Davonn Harp of Red Bull.

The cases of Red Bull’s Mick Pennisi, San Miguel Beer’s Dorian Peña and Ginebra’s Alex Crisano are further being investigated.

"The board has to approve it. We have set a precedent and the other teams hopefully will follow," said Alaska alternate board representative and team manager Joaqui Trillo, referring to their move to put Ordonio on the reserve list.

"If it goes through the proper forum, meaning the board approving it, ok sa amin yan," said Red Bull team manager Tony Chua.

"It’s a good proposition. If the team is convinced its player is legitimate, then it would let him play. But the team should take the risk of being penalized if its player is later on proven as a ‘Fil-sham,’" said Purefoods team manager Rene Pardo.

"I would have to refer this to (Purefoods) management. Pero kung ako lang, paglalaruin ko si (Andy) Seigle dahil sigurado akong Pinoy ito. Kilala ko ang nanay nito at nakita ko ang papel niya. Na-question lang siya sa technical (side), " Pardo added.

TNT governor Ricky Vargas refused to make a statement and instead hit the commissioner for discussing his proposal with the media even before he could present it to the board.

"We should stop pre-empting issues to be discussed in the board. It encourages public reaction. It creates an atmosphere of divisiveness, apprehension and conflict," said Vargas.

Nevertheless, the outspoken TNT executive said he’s open to whatever Eala proposes.

If the recommendation is approved, Taulava and the four other players will be allowed to continue playing despite the Senate findings. But if they would be later on proven as "Fil-shams," these players and their respective teams would pay the price.

In the old rule, teams were fined P.5 million for each of the game played by each of the "Fil-sham."

Eala said the games that matter would start as soon as the case is filed against Taulava and company.

Jojo Lastimosa, the leader of the group which petitioned for the Senate probe, said they will file the case within this week.

Asi counsels urge Jolas group to validate charges

The Talk N Text management urged yesterday the PBA Players’ Association to substantiate its claim against Asi Taulava in a court or face a countercharge for "its reckless and wanton disregard of the player’s rights as a Filipino citizen" and for besmirching his reputation.

"Should Messrs. (Jojo) Lastimosa and (Alvin) Patrimonio be unable to substantiate their accusation in a court of competent jurisdiction, they will have to answer for this act," said Taulava’s lawyers Edgardo de Jesus and Domingo de Jesus Jr. in a statement released yesterday.

It was Lastimosa’s group which petitioned for the Senate investigation, which in turn found five Fil-foreign players, including Taulava, with alleged fraudulent documents and recommended their summary deportation.

But Talk N Text has maintained its ace player is a Filipino citizen who has defended his nationality time and again and cannot be summarily deported as recommended by a Senate report.

Taulava’s counsels described the Senate probe as having no probative value in a judicial proceeding.

"(Asi) Taulava is a Filipino citizen and a Senate report with no probative value cannot change that," said Taulava’s counsels. They argued that only aliens can be summarily deported and Taulava is clothed with all the rights of a Filipino citizen.

It further added that Taulava was invited to the Senate committee hearings as a "resource" person to aid the senators in drafting new laws that would strengthen the procedures for recognition as a Filipino citizen. But the proceedings only became accusatory, resulting in the failure of "due process."

"We urge the PBA, the Players’ Association and everybody to exercise prudence and caution in dealing with this issue. Let us wait for a court pronouncement. After all, it is the court which will have the ultimate say in this dispute," they added.

The players’ group said it will file the case within the week.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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