Ten Pinoys become Japanese following landmark SC ruling

Ten Filipino-Japanese children of Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers born out of wedlock have been granted the right to Japanese nationality according to the Japanese Supreme Court in a landmark ruling rendered on 4 June 2008, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.

Japan’s Supreme Court, voting 12-3, recently ruled unconstitutional a provision in the Japanese Nationality Law that states that such children can only become citizens of the mother’s home country.

The children, aged between 8 and 14, were all born out of wedlock and recognized by their Japanese fathers only after they were born, the DFA said. Under existing Japanese laws, a Japanese father has to step forward before the birth in order for a child to be deemed Japanese.

With this ruling, the dream of Masami Tapiru, 10, to become a police officer may finally come true, the DFA said.

“Born to a Filipino mother and a Japanese father and despite having lived in Japan all her life, Masami is not Japanese because her father only recognized her as his child after her birth. Interestingly, her sister, Naomi Sato, 6, has Japanese nationality because their father recognized her as his child while she was still in the womb,” the DFA said.

“I want to help her dream come true,” said Rosanna Tapiru, 43, their mother. ” We should confront the fact that we are in a new era and society is becoming multicultural.”

The DFA said the “Filipino mothers and their children, aided by Japanese lawyers led by Atty. Hironori Kondo, went through a long, protracted legal battle that saw their fortunes swing from end-to-end.”

After filing suit in 2003, the DFA said the “Tokyo District Court ruled in their favor in a 2005 decision, acknowledging that the clause found in the Nationality Law ‘obstructs the constitutional right to equality’ that put the plaintiffs at ‘an immense disadvantage'”.

But later, the DFA said the “Tokyo High Court overturned the District Court’s ruling on grounds that the Nationality Law is justified and does not interfere with the constitutional right to equality.”

The High Court [not Supreme Court] stated that the decision to grant nationality is “an inherent right of the State,” and that it did not have the authority to confer nationality to the children, the DFA said.

In overturning the High Court’s decision, Japan’s Supreme Court 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, the DFA said.

The DFA said that 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.”

“Such children face an ‘identity crisis’,” said Rieko Ito, general secretary of the Citizens’ Network for Japanese-Filipino. “These children can receive welfare benefits as long as they have residential status but will not have the right to vote as adults. Without suffrage, we are afraid they will feel alienated and face discrimination in job-hunting activities,” she said.

The DFA said that “according to the plaintiff’s lawyer, officials of the Ministry of Justice and the Diet are expected to hold a meeting and to begin talks on revising the Nationality Law to grant full citizenship to children with similar backgrounds, estimated to number in the tens of thousands in Japan and in the Philippines.”

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

“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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