Sen. Leila M. de Lima has urged the Philippine government to step up its efforts 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 statement after 103 war-displaced Japanese orphans born to Filipino women and Japanese men who emigrated to the Philippines before and during World War II filed a petition for stateless status before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last Aug. 23.
“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,” she 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 added.
The second-generation Fil-Japs claimed to have been orphaned or separated from their Japanese fathers after the war. They were denied citizenship by Tokyo due to lack of a birth certificate or parental marriage certificate and they do not possess Philippine nationality either.
While there were only 103 petitioners, Philippine Federation of Japanese Descendants President Ines Yamanouchi Mallari said 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.
The lady Senator from Bicol 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 judgement,” she said.
In filing SB No. 379, De Lima proposed 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.
As then justice secretary, De Lima set up the Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (RSPPU) in the Legal Staff of the DOJ under DOJ Circular No. 58, Series of 2012.
The Philippines is a party to the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol, and the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. (senate.gov.ph)
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