MANILA, October 13, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Now that Rudy Hatfield’s Filipino citizenship has been affirmed by no less than the Office of the President, he’s suddenly missing in action and out of the country.

According to Hatfield’s agent Bill Rosmarino, the Coca-Cola cager left Manila last Saturday on a flight to the US. The night before, Hatfield was supposedly told of his affirmation.

"Rudy booked his ticket four weeks ago so he didn’t leave at the spur of the moment," said Rosmarino. "His contract with Coca-Cola had expired and he just wanted to clear his head."

The decision from the Office of the President was handed down last Sept. 27. The day after, Hatfield’s lawyer Micaela Rosales wrote a letter to Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Noli Eala to inform him of the decision and request for the player’s immediate reinstatement. The letter was received by the PBA last Sept. 29.

Last year, Hatfield and five others were suspended by the league after the Department of Justice (DOJ) revoked their certificates of recognition as Filipino citizens and ordered their deportation. Aside from Hatfield, the others in the DOJ list were Asi Taulava, Alex Crisano, Mick Pennisi, DaVonn Harp and Jon Ordonio.

Hatfield played only four games for Coca-Cola in the Philippine Cup last season when he was suspended.

Rosmarino said Hatfield isn’t sure of what to do next.

"He’s been on an emotional roller coaster ride," continued Rosmarino. "For a year, he didn’t know whether he could continue to play or not. Imagine what that uncertainty can do to you. But I’m confident he’ll be back. I think he’s got at least four good years of basketball left, playing 100 percent every game. I’m hoping he decides to play again."

Rosmarino said finally getting his affirmation from the Office of the President was a big relief.

There was really no doubt that Hatfield is a legitimate Fil-Am by blood. His mother Lilian Advincula Valdez is a full-blooded Filipina whose parents Don and Lolita were born in the Philippines. But the DOJ questioned his eligibility as a Filipino citizen after finding no existing record of his Filipino grandfather’s birth in the local civil registry of Luna, La Union.

However, the Office of the President decision, signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, put the issue to rest.

Sec. Ermita said he could not accept the DOJ’s recommendation to deport Hatfiield on the ground that he was "probably" not a Filipino citizen because no one should be stripped of his citizenship on the basis of a mere "probability."

In sum, Sec. Ermita cleared Hatfield because he was never notified of any proceedings conducted by the DOJ in the course of investigating his case, he was never given the opportunity to defend his rights, the DOJ has no jurisdiction to determine anyone’s citizenship and fourth, the DOJ’s recommendation is not supported by any evidence, applicable law or jurisprudence.

The other day, Hatfield’s lawyer submitted the documentary requirements for his reinstatement in the PBA but Eala said some of the papers were Xerox copies when they should be originals. Eala added that once the necessary papers are submitted, Hatfield will be immediately reactivated–if he is signed to a valid player’s contract. His Coca-Cola contract expired last Sept. 30.

Rosmarino said he is in the process of negotiating a new contract for Hatfield.

"I talked to him long distance when he arrived in Michigan a few days ago," said Rosmarino. "I haven’t spoken to him since. He’s thinking things through. He’s reevaluating what he wants to do with his life."

Rosmarino declined to comment on whether Hatfield’s decision to cool his heels in Michigan has anything to do with is on-and-off romantic relationship with actress Rufa Mae Quinto.

"I don’t know about his private life," said Rosmarino. "I only take care of his basketball life."

Let’s hope Hatfield comes back soon. Now that his Filipino citizenship has been affirmed, he can play in the PBA once more as a local and suit up for the national team, too. Hatfield’s an asset to the league because he works hard and plays tough. And if he’s back with Rufa Mae, it’ll be a sight for sore eyes to see her again at courtside.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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