MANILA,  October 21, 2004  (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - There is something awfully wrong in the Department of Justice (DOJ) order to deport six Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players when the Filipino lineage of at least two of the so-called Fil-Shams is an established fact.

I’m not a lawyer but from what I understand, the primary basis of the DOJ’s decision was its investigators’ inability to substantiate claims of Filipino parentage because no relatives were found in their supposed roots of origin and there were "questionable" birth certificates which "appear" to be tampered.

But were the "questionable" documents proved beyond reasonable doubt to be tampered or did they just "appear" to be tampered? I’m not sure if a decision revoking citizenship is justifiable on the basis of what relatives is foolproof evidence of any wrong-doing.

I know that Rudy Hatfield and Jon Ordonio are half-Filipino. Their mothers are undoubtedly full-blooded Filipinas.

Ordonio’s citizenship was confirmed by the DOJ and later reaffirmed by the same entity. Why he was included in the list of Fil-Shams is a mystery. Ordonio claims he has a certification from the US Embassy that his grandfather was a Filipino citizen when his mother Corazon–who has La Union roots–was born in Hawaii.

San Francisco-based player agent Bobby Rius brought Ordonio to Manila in 1998 and swears the Fil-Am’s mother is Filipina.

"Elmer Yanga can attest to that," wrote Rius in an e-mail from the US, referring to the former Swift team manager. "Like I told you before, never will I bring a fake Fil-Am. A good Fil-Am is very hard to find. Also, I respect our local players. My intention of bringing Fil-Ams to the PBA was to help our national team win in Asia the legal and honest way."

Among the legitimate Fil-Ams whom Rius took to the PBA were Danny Seigle, Ali Peek and Noy Castillo.

Ordonio said the DOJ investigators are welcome to interrogate his mother, even in Ilocano. But did the investigators bother to contact her?

"I just don’t understand why my name keeps coming up and I have submitted sealed documents from the US," sighed Ordonio. "I have given them everything, even my grandfather’s death certificate. My family in the US is getting very angry because I’m getting harassed being Filipino–and out of all the places in the world, the Philippines."

Hatfield’s mother Lillian Advincula Valdez was born in Georgia. It’s possible the DOJ swooped down on Hatfield because his mother was no longer a Filipino citizen at the time of his birth. But that’s a technicality. The fact is Hatfield’s mother is a full-blooded Filipina, making him half-Filipino.

If the DOJ investigators only asked, they could have interviewed Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes and Hatfield’s girlfriend Rufa Mae Quinto who’ve both met his Filipino relatives in Canton, Michigan. Chot and Rufa Mae would’ve certified that Hatfield’s mother is Filipina through and through.

As for Asi Taulava, he brought his mother Pauline here to be questioned by a battery of Bureau of Immigration lawyers headed by then Commissioner Rufus Rodriguez a few years ago. I don’t think Taulava would be such a scoundrel as to thrust his mother in the hot seat and expose her to legal action for perjury if she got caught lying. No son in his right mind would do that to his mother unless he’s a despicable scumbag.

I haven’t seen the "questionable" documents of Taulava, DaVonn Harp, Alex Crisano and Mick Pennisi. But if the DOJ cleared Andy Seigle, then it should’ve also cleared Hatfield and Ordonio because their situation is similar. And if it cleared Dorian Peña, why didn’t it clear Taulava and company?

The DOJ’s decision has a jolting impact on the lives of six human beings. Because PBA commissioner Noli Eala has ruled the league will abide by whatever decision is made by the DOJ, popular or not, it looks like the lives are ruined forever.

What leaves a bad taste in the mouth is an apparent misjudgment on the DOJ’s part particularly in the cases of Ordonio and Hatfield. If the DOJ erred in judging the two players’ cases, could it have also erred in judging the others?

Now, the PBA is in a bind. The Board of Governors is upholding the DOJ’s decision to the letter. Yet, you and I know Hatfield and Ordonio and possibly, others in the deportation list shouldn’t be in the frying pan.

Did the DOJ violate human rights in ordering the deportation of the six, two of whom seem to be not guilty? Should the PBA reverse itself and come to the rescue of those whose human rights appear to have been desecrated?

More than putting a closure to the nagging Fil-Sham issue, the DOJ has just opened a Pandora’s box because now, "innocent" victims will point to "guilty" parties who were spared the axe and homegrown players will demand the deportation of others whom they think are fake.

I hope the DOJ realizes the damage it has done if it is true that some of the six are indeed half-Filipino.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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