Gilas Men’s program director Tab Baldwin has been vocal in slamming the International Basketball Federation’s ‘Hagop rule’, which requires players to have a passport at the age of 16.
“If we can get rid of this FIBA rule that says you’re not a Filipino unless FIBA says you’re a Filipino, which I think is a human rights violation. I think it’s criminal. And doesn’t make me a friend of FIBA when I express my opinions about that,” Baldwin once said on Coaches Unfiltered.
“I think there are bigger things that exist on this planet than FIBA and the right to play basketball because you got a passport before you were sixteen.”
Baldwin is not the only one against the ruling. Gilas Women’s Patrick Aquino also shares the same sentiment.
“Definitely, SBP has been doing things about that rule about getting your citizenship at the age of sixteen,” Aquino shared.
“As a matter of fact, all of the Fil-Ams we have been getting to play should be eligible to play for the Philippines because their background came from the Philippines. Their parents were born here. Their lineage are so rightful that they want to represent the country as well.”
There have been many Filipinas abroad willing to play for Gilas in international play.
Just last year, 5-foot-6 guard Mei-Lyn Bautista of George Washington University, 5-foot-8 guard Elisha Bade of Sacramento State, 5-foot-10 winger Arnecia Hawkins of Arizona State University, and 6-foot forward Kelli Hayes of UCLA all played for Gilas in the Jones Cup.
However, with all of them obtaining their passport after the age of 16 and with only one spot for a “naturalized player”, only Hayes — who eventually went to NU — was lined up for the 2019 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Division A.
Sadly, even Duke University’s Vanessa De Jesus, who was born to Filipino parents in California, cannot suit up for Gilas as a local.
Aquino hopes that FIBA changes its stance on citizenship one day, so the country can compete with the continent’s best.
“I hope that the rule should be changed and we are hoping that FIBA reconsiders that rule. It will definitely help us compete in their level. I think it’s not just a good opportunity for Fil-Ams like Vanessa, but also for our country.”