DAVAO CITY— James Akiyama, 20, has regularly been receiving support money from his Japanese father since he was born.
But under the old law of Japan, Japanese Filipino children like him could never become full-fledged Japanese citizens because their parents never married.
“The June 4 ruling of the Japanese Supreme Court will change this,” said Japanese Lawyer Hironori Kondoh of the Tokyo-based Japanese-Filipino Children Lawyers Association in his visit to Davao early this month.
“The Japanese Supreme Court has pronounced the old ruling as “unconstitutional,” Kondoh told a jampacked room of affected Japanese Filipino children and their mothers. “It’s not the fault of the children that they parents were unmarried.”
Kondoh said that the June 4 decision of the Japan Supreme Court will reverse the old law which only grants nationality to Japanese-Filipino children whose parents were married legally. He said that the new law will include children whose parents are not legally married.
Japanese media expect the Diet (Japanese Parliament) to start session towards the end of August. Although there is some opposition to the law, there is a big chance that it will be passed, according to Kondoh, one of the 60 lawyers helping the Japanese Filipino children in Japan.
Kondoh urged Japanese Filipino children in a forum to take advantage of the new law.
He said children and mothers living in Davao can apply before the Japanese embassy once the law takes effect. He also said the application must be done before the child reaches 20 years old. “Japanese-Filipino children from 16 to 19 years old should prepare their documents as soon as possible,” he said.
Akiyama welcomes the new ruling of the Japanese Supreme Court (SC), saying it will give him a chance to see his father, whom he has never met since he was three years old.
The new ruling is expected to open applications for Japanese citizenship among tens of thousands of Japanese Filipino children abandoned by their fathers.
“All they want is recognition more than anything else,” said Sr. Celine Cajanding, executive director of the Center for Overseas Workers Development Inc. (Cowdi), which has been assisting women with Japanese Filipino children in Davao. “They’re saying that if they can’t go there themselves, at least, their children can.”
Jean Bingcoy, president of the Samahan ng Kababaihan para sa Karapatan ng mga Japanese Filipino Children (Women’s association for the rights of Japanese-Filipino children), said her 11 year old son, has not been recognized under the law, although his father has been sending financial support once in a while.
“The new law will help a lot,” she said, “Parents do not need to get married to have the children recognized.”
She said that if the new law will push through, many children abandoned by their Japanese fathers will be looking for a chance to go to Japan. “Life is better in Japan compared to here,” said Bingcoy.
“Some women are also hoping that through their children, they can get residency and passport,” said Cajanding. “They are the ones who would take care of the children, so, they’ll be allowed to go there.”
At least 40 members of the SKKJ are living in Davao with their Japanese Filipino children, whose fathers are in Japan. Some of these Japanese fathers are sending them financial support while others are not, Cajanding said.
“We expect the Diet (Parliament) to revise the nationality law in August,” said Kondoh. “But even before the law is revised, the government will start accepting application for nationality before September.”
Naoko Kono, executive director of the Maligaya House, a Manila-based NGOs assisting Japanese-Filipino children and their mothers, said their Manila office has handled 840 cases of Japanese Filipino children in Manila since 1994. The cases included those children abandoned by their Japanese fathers.
“Most of these children have no official legal recognition and have not been supported financially,” said Kono. “They need food and money.”
Most of mothers are already married, she said. “But in other cases their Japanese husbands divorced them without their consent,” she said of the Filipina wives. “Sometimes, the husbands falsify their wife’s signatures; in which case, we help the woman file a criminal case against the husband and require the husband to give financial support.”
She said that their Tokyo office handle 500 cases since they opened about 10 years ago. Most of these cases were endorsed by Maligaya House.
The disparity of the living conditions between Japan and the Philippines pushes more Filipinas to find work in Japan, where they mostly land as entertainers.
Kono said that they’re currently handling 20 to 30 ongoing paternity cases. Of the 843 cases they handled in 10 years, only 20 or 30 per cent were successful.
“Oftentimes, the mother drops the case because she doesn’t want to prolong her agonies. She wants to move on with her life and marry someone else,” Kono said. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)