Philippine basketball

Brownlee naturalization bill hurdles House committee

Philip Matel

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Brownlee naturalization bill hurdles House committee

FIRST STEP. Justin Brownlee attends the House proceedings on his naturalization.


(3rd UPDATE) Gilas Pilipinas hopes Justin Brownlee’s naturalization will be approved before the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers in February 2023

MANILA, Philippines – House Bill (HB) 825, otherwise known as the naturalization bill of Barangay Ginebra resident import Justin Brownlee, hurdled the House justice committee on Wednesday, November 16.

The 6-foot-6 American swingman attended the proceedings wearing a Barong Tagalog to signal the formal start in his process to becoming one of Gilas Pilipinas’ naturalized players.

Attending with Brownlee were officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), namely legal counsel Atty. Aga Francisco, executive director Sonny Barrios, and Gilas team manager Butch Antonio. 

Brownlee said that aside from being able to play for the Philippine basketball team, he wanted to imbibe the welcoming nature of Filipinos.

“Being from the US, I feel like there is a lot of division, it’s divided. When I came here, people embraced me. I know it’s basketball but just seeing how people come together,” explained the 34-year-old.

“They didn’t have much but when I go around, they seem happy and me personally, I like to see that kind of stuff and go around and see those kinds of people,” he added.

“[When I interact with people who] may be not as fortunate, but because of their happiness, they seem like that they have everything. I really appreciated that and that definitely drew me closer outside basketball.”

Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga moved for approval after the Justice, and Foreign Affairs departments, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Immigration did not object to his naturalization.

HB 825 will now be elevated to the plenary level for sponsorship and possible interpellation from lawmakers, where it will need to be approved for two readings before being transmitted to the Senate.

Justice committee chief Representative Juliet Marie de Leon Ferrer and bill author Representaive Mikee Romero pleaded with their colleagues to have a quick passage of the bill in the House before the month-long break starting December 14 until January 22, 2023.

“Justin Brownlee should be differentiated because he volunteered to become a naturalized Filipino player. He actually volunteered and that means a lot to us Filipinos,” said Romero during his sponsorship speech.

“He’s embracing to becoming a Filipino citizen. We thank him for volunteering… I sponsored this because I personally heard this from himself… I know that he would become a great asset as a Filipino citizen,” he furthered.

The process will be repeated in the Senate, before being transmitted to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his signature.

Brownlee will then take the Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, and be issued a Certificate of Naturalization.

He will then be able to apply for a Philippine passport and his papers submitted to FIBA for approval.

On the other hand, SBP chairman Senator Sonny Angara filed the Upper House equivalent on Wednesday evening.

Much like Ange Kouame’s naturalization bill, Senate Bill 1516 seeks to immediately grant Brownlee citizenship upon publication of the law in the Official Gazette or two newspapers of general circulation instead of the customary 15 days. 

The SBP previously said it’s targeting Brownlee as the country’s naturalized player in the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers in February 2023.

“We hope that his [naturalization] be approved on time…if he’s available there will be more options on who is worthy for the sixth window in February,” said SBP executive director Sonny Barrios on Tuesday.

Gilas will face FIBA Asia Cup silver medalists Lebanon on February 24, 2023, and Jordan on February 27 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. – 

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