DEPORTATION: 'FIL-SHAMS'  HAVE  15  DAYS,  SAYS  IMMIGRATION  DEPT

MANILA,  October 27, 2004 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - Your days are numbered.

This was the strong message issued by Immigration commissioner Alipio Fernandez yesterday to five Fil-foreign players who were found to have either tampered with or falsified public documents to prove their Filipino ancestry and therefore be allowed to play in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

The Immigration chief gave the players exactly 15 working days upon yesterdayís issuance of the order to file an appeal before the appropriate courts, move for a reconsideration, seek an injunction or directly file an appeal before the Office of the President.

"These players will be informed accordingly of the summary deportation order as ordered by the board of commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration," said Fernandez, referring to Red Bullís Davonn Harp, Mick Pennisi and Jon Ordonio, Coca-Colaís Rudy Hatfield and Ginebraís Alex Crisano.

Asi Taulava of Talk N Text was also ordered deported but the proceedings will have to wait until a permanent injunction earlier sought by the Busan Asian Games veteran is lifted. Once it is lifted, Taulava will also be given 15 days to leave the country voluntarily or face deportation.

"Under the administrative code of the Philippines, they are given 15 days either to appeal or move for reconsideration. Or they can appeal to the Office of the President. But as far as the Bureau of Immigration is concerned, this is an act of finality," said Fernandez during the PSA Forum at the Manila Pavilion.

But even if they get an injunction, they are still barred from playing since the Department of Justice, which recently ordered the Immigration Bureau to make a decision, has cancelled the playersí certificate of recognition, one of the PBA requirements.

Also gracing the forum were former Sen. Robert Barbers and Atty. Roy Almoro, the Immigration deputy-director who headed the three-man committee formed by Fernandez regarding the issue. Barbers then headed the Senate committee on games, amusements and sports that started investigating the "Fil-sham" controversy.

"We cannot work on Asiís deportation because of the court injunction. It has to be resolved and lifted before any administrative action is exercised or deliberated on," added Fernandez.

Pennisi and Harp have recently filed a similar injunction before a Pasig court.

Almoro, however, said he seriously doubts whether the court will still grant the injunction favoring the two Red Bull players, considering that the Immigration Bureau had already ordered their deportations.

"We are very positive that the documents gathered are enough to disprove their claims of Filipino citizenship. If these will be appreciated by the courts, then these players will not be given an injunction.

"Regarding Asi, I believe that in due time the court will probably lift the injunction. Then we can implement the deportation proceedings. I think in due time itís forthcoming," added Almoro.

Barbers, a former police general, is also confident that Taulavaís injunction would soon be lifted and that the rest who would seek one are to be denied.

"In the first place, what basis did the judge use in granting an injunction on Taulava. In other words, did he find the evidence gathered by the Senate committee and the decision of the Department of Justice weak?

"Thatís why Iím appealing to the Solicitor Generalís office to initiate an action to dissolve this (Taulava) injunction because of the findings of the Senate and the DOJ and the order of the Bureau of Immigration," he said.

Once deported to his native Tonga, Almoro said the best Taulava could do is file for a petition lifting his name from being blacklisted and then apply for a new visa category.

Only then can he return to the Philippines where he has a Filipina wife and two kids.

Barbers added that private individuals or big businesses who could have conspired with the players in coming up with fraudulent papers should be investigated.

"I think there must be an investigation to be conducted to find out if there are private individuals responsible for making a mockery of our laws. They have made a mockery of our laws," the former senator added. ó With report from Nikko Dizon


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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