Senators yesterday allowed Ivorian cager Kakou Ange Franck Williams Kouame and Spanish footballer Bienvenido Morejon Marañon to play in international leagues under the Philippine flag.
All 23 senators present voted to approve on third and final reading House Bill No. 8631 under Committee Report No. 188 granting Filipino citizenship to 34-year-old Striker Morejon, hoping to play with Philippine Azkals.
The senators also voted 23-0-0 to pass on third reading House Bill No. 8632 under Committee Report No. 189 granting citizenship to Kouame in the hope of having him join Gilas Pilipinas in international competitions, including the upcoming window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the country’s hosting of 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said the naturalization process “values the opportunity to become more closely knit to the fabric of Philippine society”.
“We are excited for them to be naturalized because they have proven that they really want to be Filipinos, but they also have to be exemplary, to be an inspiration to the Filipinos,” he added.
Gordon emphasized that naturalization is a privilege, not a right, and that the candidates must have moral values and should be free from any legal impediment.
The counterpart versions of the measures, Senate Bill No. 1391, filed by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri for Marañon, and Senate Bill No. 2058, authored by Gordon for Kouame, were passed on second reading last week, amending the effectivity of the law to immediately.
Since counterpart measures were already passed in the House of Representatives last month, both measures will become a law after the President signs them and after its publication in Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.
Kouame, a 6’10” center of the Ateneo de Manila University, came to the Philippines in 2016 to try out for the Blue Eagles. He was named UAAP Rookie of the Year in 2018.
His naturalization is being pushed by Senator Sonny Angara, who is also chairperson of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
“I think Ange is not really here just to play basketball, but he’s really here to make the Philippines his home. He’s grown up, he has a barkada here, he has friends, he has an organization that cares for him and is really prepared to help him settle in,” Angara said.
Marañon, who came to the Philippines in May 2015, played for Ceres Negros Football Club, which is one of the teams in the Philippines Football League. He was named top scorer and awarded as best import player in 2017, 2018, and 2019.*