EFFORTS to tap Justin Brownlee as Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player took a step forward as the House Committee on Justice approved on first reading the bill seeking his Philippine citizenship yesterday.

Looking dapper in a barong, Mr. Brownlee appeared before members of the committee as it tackled House Bill No. 825 filed by 1-Pacman Party List Rep. Mikee Romero and set his naturalization process in motion.

The Justice and Foreign Affairs departments, National Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Immigration made no objection to the proposed legislation, prompting Cavite Rep. Elpidio Braganza to move for its approval by the primary committee.

Maraming salamat po,” (Thank you) Mr. Brownlee, who was accompanied by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios, legal counsel Aga Francisco, and Gilas team manager Butch Antonio, told the committee members.

From here, the Brownlee naturalization bill will go through second and third hearings before its presentation to the House for approval. The same procedure will be done in the Senate.

Gilas is hoping to have the resident Barangay Ginebra import on board in time for its next assignments in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in February.

If everything goes as planned, Gilas seeks to unleash a freshly-minted Filipino Mr. Brownlee when it battles Lebanon on Feb. 24 and Jordan three days later in its Philippine Arena homecoming. — Olmin Leyba