The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights approved on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, the naturalization bills of Ateneo center Ange Kouame and United City striker Bienvenido Marañon.
The committee chaired by Senator Richard Gordon gave the nod on Senate Bills No. 2058 and 1391 during the one-hour hearing attended virtually by Kouame and Marañon.
Also present were Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios and director for operations Butch Antonio and long-time Philippine Azkals team official Ace Bright.
Both bills will be up for discussion in the plenary where they need to be approved on the second and third reading before needing the signature of President Duterte in order for Kouame and Marañon to become Filipino citizens.
The House of Representatives approved last week on the third reading its own version of the naturalization bills of the two foreign athletes.
The SBP is hoping for a speedy process in order for Kouame to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas in the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers next month.
No date has been set for the third window which will be held in Clark, Pampanga following the decision of Doha, Qatar to cancel its hosting.
Marañon could also be available once the Azkals resume their international campaign, namely the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers.
Senator Sonny Angara, who also serves as SBP chairman, authored the bill seeking to grant citizenship to Kouame while Senator Migs Zubiri filed a measure that aims to make Marañon a Filipino almost a year ago.