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Filipino kids of Japanese on way to acquiring citizenship

By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:10:00 06/15/2008

Filed Under: Crime, Law & Justice

A LANDMARK RULING BY JAPAN?S Supreme Court has paved the way for the grant of Japanese citizenship to all children born out of wedlock to Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The Japanese high court, voting 12-3 on June 4, declared unconstitutional a provision in the Japanese Nationality Law that states that children of Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers born out of wedlock can only follow the citizenship of the mother.

The high court acted on the petition of 10 Japanese-Filipino children, aged between 8 and 14, who were born out of wedlock but were recognized by their Japanese fathers after they were born.

Under Japanese law, however, a Japanese father has to step forward before the birth in order for a child to be entitled to Japanese citizenship.

Among the petitioners who challenged the constitutionality of the citizenship clause was Masami Tapiru, 10, who hopes to become a Japanese police officer someday.

Despite having lived in Japan all her life, Masami is not entitled to Japanese citizenship because her father only recognized her after her birth. However, her sister, Naomi Sato, 6, has Japanese citizenship because their father recognized her as his child while she was still in her mother?s womb.

Rosanna Tapiru, 43, their mother, and other Filipino mothers and their children, aided by Japanese lawyers led by Hironori Kondo, filed suit in 2003.

In 2005, the Tokyo District Court ruled in their favor, ruling that the clause found in the Nationality Law ?obstructs the constitutional right to equality? and puts the plaintiffs at ?an immense disadvantage.?

However, the Tokyo high court overturned the district court?s ruling, stating that the decision to grant citizenship is ?an inherent right of the state.?

The case was elevated to the national tribunal.

In overturning the Tokyo high court, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled that the provision in the law resulted in ?discrimination without any rational reason? and thus violated Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law.

In finding unlawful the clause requiring that the parents be married, the ruling stated: ?The disadvantages caused to the children by this biased treatment cannot be disregarded.?

According to the children?s lawyer, officials of the Ministry of Justice and the Diet are expected to hold a meeting to begin talks on revising the Nationality Law to grant full citizenship to children in similar situations, estimated to number in the tens of thousands, both in Japan and in the Philippines.

Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo L. Siazon Jr. welcomed the landmark ruling as a positive step towards improving the plight of thousands of Japanese-Filipino children and hoped that the registration process can be done soon and quickly.

?I also hope that the Filipino mothers of these children may also be allowed to come to Japan to be with their children in their formative years and assist in their education,? Siazon said.

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