Senator Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, has issued a notice of public hearing to discuss the proposed naturalization of American basketball player Justin Donta Brownlee .
This followed the referral of Senate Bill 1336 authored by Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara granting Philippine citizenship to Brownlee. The hearing starts on Monday.
Tolentino said these naturalization efforts are in recognition of the potential of the 6-foot-6 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) swingman to become part of the country’s Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team in the ongoing International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Basketball World Cup.
Under the FIBA eligibility rules, any player who seeks to represent a country must hold the legal nationality of the country.
Last Nov. 16, The House committee on justice passed on first reading House Bill 825 – the bill granting Philippine citizenship to Brownlee.
The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel PBA player made a personal appearance in a barong, stated his intention and desire to become a Filipino citizen, and consequently help the Philippines national team bid in the FIBA.
Angara has filed last Wednesday a counterpart bill (Senate Bill 1516) for the naturalization of American hoopster Justin Brownlee as part of his commitment to support the continuous development of the Philippine national basketball program.
As chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Angara previously expressed his willingness to initiate the process of naturalizing Brownlee and possibly another foreign player to bulk up the roster of the Gilas Pilipinas men’s national national team.
It was the second bill filed for the same purpose, the first being Senate Bill 1336 filed by Senator Ronald Dela Rosa last September. Both bills will be referred to the Tolentino’s committee.
“We all know the capabilities of Brownlee on the basketball court and can only imagine the great things he can do as a member of our Gilas Pilipinas team. Justin has demonstrated his strong desire to be part of the national team—having played and lived in the Philippines for over five years as an import of Barangay Ginebra in the PBA,” Angara said.
If granted, Brownlee’s naturalization is said to be the fourth naturalization given through legislative fiat.
“Brownlee is an exception player in the PBA, with an average of 29.29 points per game, 10.57 rebounds per game, and 7.43 assists per game. He has lived in the Philippines for over five years. His discipline and athleticism serve as an inspiration to the Filipinos. It would arouse the further patriotism and Pinoy pride in each and every one of us, especially in a sport very popular in the country,” Tolentino said.