393 stateless Indonesians granted citizenship

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 November) — Three hundred ninety-three residents here of Indonesian descent finally received official citizenship from their home country as part of the national government’s and Indonesia’s efforts to address their status as “stateless” persons.

The Indonesian Consulate General in Davao City released letters of confirmation for the citizenship of the Indonesians, some of whom were born and had lived in the city and the neighboring areas for decades.

Consul General Berlian Napitupulu led the ceremonial turnover of the confirmation letters in simple rites on Tuesday held at the oval plaza covered court here.

Lawyer Ruben Fondevilla, assistant chief state counsel of the Department of Justice (DOJ), said the granting of citizenship was an offshoot of a joint initiative of the government and Indonesia to resolve the status of the so-called “Persons with Indonesian Descent” in Mindanao.

He said both countries agreed through a series of engagements to provide citizenship to the concerned individuals in compliance with the United Nations conventions on statelessness.

The official cited the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.   

He said the government pledged to accede to these in a ministerial meeting in Geneva, Switzerland in 2011, essentially adopting legal and jurisprudential principles on statelessness.

The government and Indonesia, through the Consulate General in Davao City, listed a total of 8,745 PIDs settled in parts of Mindanao, specifically in Regions 11 and 12.

Most of them were descendants of Indonesian fishermen who eventually settled in the area, married locals and started their own families. Some of the PIDs have reportedly lived in Mindanao for three generations.

Both governments have so far settled the nationality or citizenship status of 2,975 individuals or about 34 percent.

Of the 2,975 resolved cases, a total of 1,937 individuals were assessed as “clearly Indonesians,” 831 as “clearly Filipinos,” and 189 qualifying for dual citizenship.

Fondevilla said the latest confirmation of the citizenship is part of the second phase of the joint initiative.

He said it was based on initial assessments conducted by the government’s technical team, which is led by the DOJ.

“We later forwarded their cases for examination and confirmation of Indonesian nationality by the government of Indonesia,” he said.

The official said the letters of confirmation will be released in the next few days to the concerned individuals by an Indonesian technical mission.

He said the processing will continue until Friday for the other PIDs, who are estimated at more than 800.

The team will proceed to Malapatan town in Sarangani ion Saturday to continue the processing of other PIDs, he said.

Napitupulu described the resolution of the citizenship of the PIDs as a “remarkable and monumental achievement” for both countries.

“It had been pending for a long, long time,” he said.

Being neighbors, he said residents of both countries traveled around the area for centuries and “even before we had our independence.”

He was referring to the long years of Dutch colonization of Indonesia that ended with the Japanese occupation during World War II and led to its proclamation as an independent nation in 1945.

“We are glad that this age-old problem in now (addressed) step by step and significantly reduced,” he added. (MindaNews)