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FIBA (International Basketball Federation)

Gilas Pilipinas cadet Troy Rike arrested on visa issues but fans vent anger at Chinese working illegally in Philippines

The 22-year-old says he was detained overnight by immigration officials, who were tipped off by someone saying the player was in the Philippines illegally

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 6:39pm

Mystery surrounds the arrest and overnight detention in Manila of American-Filipino basketball player Troy Rike – apparently because of immigration issues – with some angry fans saying authorities should instead focus on the growing number of Chinese nationals working illegally in the Philippines.

The 22-year-old Rike was born in San Francisco to an American father and a Filipino mother. In early September he was cleared to play for National University Bulldogs in the UAAP Season 81 men’s tournament after proving that he had a Filipino mother.

However, the six-foot-seven (2.0m) player revealed on Friday that he was arrested by Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers on Wednesday, questioned about his nationality, kept overnight and forced to sleep on the floor – apparently after a tip-off from someone that he was in the Philippines illegally.

A Gilas Pilipinas cadet who is seen as a future star after a stint with Wake Forest University in the United States’s NCAA Division I league, he was quoted as saying: “It was tough, I’m not gonna lie. I was a bit emotional. I’ve never been arrested before.

“The argument was I entered with an American passport, which I did, and then, I’m studying. [They said] ‘He’s an American, how could he study if he didn’t get approval?’” he said, although an earlier UAAP approval allows him to pursue post-graduate studies in the Philippines for one year.

Rike is a hero in the Philippines after he protected Australia’s Chris Goulding from fans during a brawl at July’s Fiba World Cup qualifier, resulting in the suspension of most of the team.

Filipino basketball fans took to social media to express their horror at Rike’s arrest, with most of their anger directed at the immigration department and the government.

But a handful said the BI should focus more on tackling the issue of the growing number of Chinese nationals working illegally in the Philippines rather than arresting genuine athletes.

One social media user wrote: “This young guy came here to serve our country by playing basketball and then u arrest him branding him as an illegal alien? Many Chinese are working without a permit and they are even owning businesses.”

Another wrote: “That’s why the [world governing body] Fiba doesn’t immediately recognise our own Fil-foreigners because our own immigration officers are a bunch of [expletive]. By the way, why are there so many Chinese given work permits all of a sudden? Wonder why?”

According to the Philippines Labour Department, 51,980 Chinese nationals have been given work permits since 2015, 24,000 of them over the past year. However, there is increasing resentment among Filipinos at the number of Chinese nationals they say are taking their jobs, with many of them accused of being in the Philippines illegally.

In the meantime, questions remain on who alerted the BI to Rike’s case, with some social media users suggesting it was a rival team or university.

Rike himself said he suspected it was someone who had “selfish interests”, adding that the incident has cast doubt about his future with the Philippines.

“I’m questioning my whole future here. I’m a basketball player. I don’t even know what I’m doing. It was pretty surreal,” Rike told Filipino media. “This is in no way to offend or go against the people who directly handled me there. They were very nice, very respectful.

“I think there are people who don’t want me to play or have selfish interests, whatever that may be. At least, that’s my understanding because everything I’ve been told, it’s just common sense. This just doesn’t happen to people,” he said.

“I don’t think, at least in my mind, that they just went and arrested that person. They could have sent me an email, a letter, or anything. I would’ve showed up on a legal hearing. There is a bunch of other ways that, I think, could’ve been resulted way better.

“I was detained against my will for over 24 hours. I slept on the floor, I don’t know what was going on. I had to be escorted on the way to the bathroom and on the way back, the guard asked to have a selfie with me. I guess there was some funny moments, but overall, it was a really crazy argument.”