By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Sunday urged the Philippine government to help some 103 second-generation Filipino-Japanese obtain the United Nations (UN)-recognized stateless status that would boost their citizenship claims in a Japanese court.
De Lima made the call after these 103 war-displaced Japanese orphans filed a petition for stateless status before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last August 23.
These 103 second generation Fil-Japs were born to Filipino women and Japanese men who emigrated to the Philippines before and during World War II.
“The State is duty-bound to promote and protect the rights of stateless persons, especially those with Filipino blood, and extend them with necessary assistance needed to improve their plight,” de Lima said.
“We need to recognize that the 103 war-displaced Japanese orphans are victims of war and crisis. Their fight for Japanese citizenship is a fight for a permanent home and a safe place to live in where their rights are guaranteed protected,” she said.
The second-generation Fil-Japs claim to have been orphaned or separated from their Japanese fathers after World War II, and were denied citizenship by Tokyo due to lack of a birth certificate or parental marriage certificate.
They do not possess Philippine nationality either.
According to Philippine Federation of Japanese Descendants President Ines Yamanouchi Mallari, while there were only 103 petitioners, there are about 1,100 of them still living and unrecognized by the Philippine and Japanese governments.
Chairman of the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center- Japan chapter Hiroyuki Kawaii explained that help from Philippine officials, including inclusion of a formal narrative in their rulings that would explicitly indicate the Japanese ancestry of individuals given the stateless status, could serve as strong evidence for the Fil-Japs’ bid for Japanese citizenship.
“We cannot leave them behind and allow them to live the remaining years of their lives without a permanent ‘home,’” said de Lima, a social justice and human rights champion.
Because of this, de Lima urged her colleagues in the Senate to support her proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 379 which seeks to protect the rights of refugees and stateless persons, and help it pass into law this 18thCongress.
“As victims of crisis, refugees and stateless persons need a home and a community that will accept them with open arms without any judgment,” she said.
The bill seeks the creation of the Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Board as the central authority in matters relating to the determination of status, and eligibility to avail of protection, as refugees and stateless persons.