“Respect our sovereignty and right to national self-determination.”
By BRUCE KYLE MALLO
MANILA – Six ageing comfort women were among the activists who picketed the Japanese embassy in Pasay City, today, June 23, protesting the simultaneous naval war games of the Philippines’ with the US and Japan.
Under the scorching heat of the noon sun, different groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) gathered in front of the Japanese embassy to voice out their opposition to what they called as “US-Japanese imperialism and militarism in the Philippines and Asia Pacific.”
Recalling atrocities by Japanese occupation troops in World War 2, the groups said the presence of foreign troops is against the Constitution, and brings the country closer to war.
“The people would not stand to suffer another inter-imperialist war,” said Elmer Labog, chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS). “The US, Japan, China and all foreign powers should keep their hands off the Philippines. Respect our sovereignty and right to national self-determination,” he said.
Holding on to their canes, and to their placards, members of Lila Filipina, the group of victims of sexual abuses by Japanese occupation troops in World War 2, decried the war games.
Lila Filipina said there are at least 174 documented comfort women who never received just compensation after years of crying out to the Japanese and Philippine governments. Many have passed away due to old age and illnesses.
“That is why we are very angry!” said Richilda Extramadura, Lila Filipina president. She said President Aquino was contented with the apology given by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Japan early this month.
But apologies are not enough, Extremadura said. “Legally it is not, and the San Franscisco treaty is not enough,” she said. She added that government should review the cases of sexual slavery by Japanese occupation forces to begin giving justice to comfort women. The San Francisco Treaty contained a chapter on the settlement of war-related crimes by Japan.
“If Japan is truly remorseful about its World War II atrocities, why is it rearming and intruding into the South China Sea where it has no dispute whatsoever? Their navy should stay in Japan and the East China Sea,” Labog said.
Labog also cited the murder of Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude that has been charged against US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton who participated in last year’s joint military exercises.
Bayan spokesperson Teddy Casiño stated that these military exercises had been paving the way for the United States to redeploy its military forces and expand dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan is also pushing its “imperialist agenda” to expand its businesses here in the country.
“If we do not stop how these countries siphon our resources, they will also continue to control our economic and political policies,” Casiño said.
“Japan has been the junior partner of the imperialist United States of America, and these exercises are their doings also to contain China, a rising imperialist power,” Casiño said.
He said the US and Japan are bringing their “international feud” into the country. “They’re the ones who instigate conflict…and when that heats up, we’ll be caught between two clashing giants,” he said.
Casiño said that Japan has started to shift from its policy and promise after World War 2 not to join wars again. People should be reminded of how the country was exploited and abused historically, by both US and Japan.
Japan vs China
In its statement, Bayan said the Philippines’ assertion of its sovereign right to its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea is different from Japan’s conflict with China.
“Japan’s claims to Diaoyu islands are questionable because the islands were annexed by Japan as war booty in the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The islands should rightfully be returned to China in the same way Japan returned other annexed territories after World War 2. Japan refuses to do so and is supported in its claim by the United States,” Bayan’s statement said.
“Unlike Japan, the Philippines does not enjoy the support of the US in these claims. The US only feigns support so that it could justify the return of US bases and increase the number of stationed troops in the Philippines,” Bayan said.