The "sports fan" in House Speaker Martin Romualdez is elated over the prospect of Barangay Ginebra "import" Justin Brownlee playing for the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team next year.
This, after the House Committee on Justice approved on Wednesday, Nov. 16 the American cager's application for naturalization as a Filipino citizen via House Bill (HB) No.825.
“Bilang isang sports fan at supporter ng mga #AtletangPinoy (Filipino athletes), tayo po ay nagagalak sa pagnanais ni Justin Brownlee na maging isang ganap na Pilipino, at makasama sa Gilas Pilipinas na lalaban sa FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers sa Pebrero (As a sports fan and supporter of #AtletangPinoy, we are delighted with Justin Brownlee's desire to be a naturalized Filipino, and to join Gilas Pilipinas in their FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February),” Romualdez added.
Under HB No.825, Brownlee “shall enter upon the full enjoyment of Philippine citizenship” after taking his oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, if Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) approves the measure.
1-PACMAN Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero filed the measure. It was approved by the justice panel during a hearing Wednesday upon the motion of Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.
"Mabuhay ka, Justin Brownlee. Ngayon pa lamang ay karangalan na sa akin na tawagin kang ‘kababayan’ dahil sa dakila mong hangarin na maglingkod dala ang bandilang Pilipino (Long live Justin Brownlee. As early as now, it's already an honor for me to call you my countryman because of your honorable desire to carry the Philippine flag)," Romualdez, Leyte’s 1st district representative, said.
Congress had passed several bills before granting Filipino citizenship to a number of foreigner-athletes.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), which governs all basketball leagues in the Philippines, made a conscious effort of fast tracking the naturalization of Brownlee, who has been religiously working out with Gilas Pilipinas prior to the start of the fifth window of our national team’s "away" games in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Even without Brownlee, the Philippines ended up winning these games against Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The SBP is hoping to get Brownlee--the beloved two-time "Best Import" of the popular Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)--on board Gilas before the team's two "home" games in the sixth window in February, which will be hosted by the country at the Philippine Arena.