MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Justice has passed on the first reading House Bill 825 or the granting of Philippine citizenship to Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee as he seeks to help Gilas Pilipinas in international competition.
Brownlee on Wednesday attended the proceedings of the Committee on Justice wearing a Barong Tagalog.
The American import’s bid to become a Filipino citizen didn’t receive any objections from the Department of Justice, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration, and Office of the Solicitor General.
Cavite Fourth District representative Pidi Barzaga moved for the approval of House Bill 825 authored by Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman partylist Mikee Romero, who also attended the hearing via zoom.
“A lot of our fellow countrymen want to be citizens of other country. And here’s one of the best foreign players that the PBA had and he’s embracing to become a Filipino citizen. That differentiates him because he volunteered himself,” said Romero. “I sponsored this because I heard it from himself and that’s why I want to thank you. I know he will be a great asset not just for our country but also as a Filipino citizen.”
Brownlee, who was accompanied by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios and Gilas team manager Butch Antonio, said he is willing to help the national team and vows to become a good Filipino citizen.
“Just want to become a citizen and help out the national team. I’ve had a lot of love from the fans and the people here. It just seems that it would be great to be a part of the country and just keep on helping out as much as I can with the national team,” the 6-foot-6 winger said. “Hopefully, I can just b an inspiration to people and kids and help to better basketball here to just do whatever I can, to be better and just be a good citizen here.”
When the Committee on Justice asked what he loves about the Philippines, the resident Ginebra import, who has been playing in the PBA since 2016, answered he wants the bond and happiness that he has seen in Filipino families.
“Being from the US, I feel that there’s a lot of division like it’s divided. When I came here, people embrace me here. I know I play basketball but just seeing how people come together. I have a scooter so I go around sometimes just to visit certain places Mandaluyong, Pasig, and some of the areas,” Brownlee said. “Just seeing how people are together maybe not as fortunate as others but it seems that they have so much fun, a lot of happiness just being around each other with family and friends.”
“They didn’t have much but when I go around they seemed so happy… With their happiness, it seems like they have everything. I really appreciated that when I have seen it that draw me closer to the people outside of basketball,” he added.
Brownlee is being eyed as Gilas naturalized player for the sixth window of the Fiba World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers against Lebanon and Jordan at Philippine Arena in February next year.
But his naturalization process needs to undergo the Committee on Rules for consideration and House for approval before being transmitted to the Senate, which will have the same process.
The bill also needs to be signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. before Brownlee could take the Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, and become eligible for the Certificate of Naturalization and a Philippine passport.
Brownlee’s naturalization also needs Fiba’s approval once he completes all his requirements.
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