“We may be older than him, but our memory is far clearer. The lolas never heard an official statement of apology nor received compensation from the Japanese government.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Determined lolas (grandmothers) of Lila Pilipina are set to welcome Emperor Akihito of Japan with protest during his state visit in the Philippines next week.
Lila Pilipina, an organization of comfort women, has been demanding an apology and compensation from the Japanese government for the abuse of teenage Filipinas as sex slaves during World War II.
Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko will be in the Philippines from Jan. 26 to 30.
Lila Pilipina and progressive women’s group Gabriela will also be protesting against the US-Japan military alliance that the groups say will breed modern-day Filipino comfort women.
In a forum held on Jan. 22, Lila Pilipina executive director Rechilda Extremadura lambasted President Aquino for the injustice that the comfort women continue to suffer. She said nothing has materialized after Aquino’s statement in 2010 that he would task then newly-appointed Ambassador Emmanuel Lopez to study the matter and come into a compromise on the issue of official apology.
She said Aquino pledged to ask Congress to draft a law that will ensure that surviving comfort women will be compensated from the funds provided for by the 1956 Reparations Agreement which he described as “all-encompassing,” including comfort women.
But Aquino was all talk, she said.
“Congress never came up with anything, except for resolutions filed by the Makabayan bloc.”
She also slammed Aquino’s recent statement that “the reparation issue has long been settled” between the Philippines and the Japanese government.
“We may be older than him, but our memory is far clearer. The lolas never heard an official statement of apology nor received compensation from the Japanese government. Perhaps he is the one suffering from dementia,” Extremdura said.
Aquino said in a report that former Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon advised him that the two countries have made agreements.
Gabriela Women’s Party, on the other hand, filed House Resolution 2618 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, to present to the public what Aquino claims to be final settlements between the Philippines and Japan, as relayed to him by the DFA.
GWP Rep. Luz Ilagan said the comfort women were excluded from the purported settlements.
“We demand Aquino to release all these so-called bilateral agreements to congressional scrutiny, and finally dare ask our lolas if they agree to these agreements made without their consent,” Ilagan said.
Meanwhile, women’s group Gabriela expressed alarm over Japan’s rising militarism saying it is aligned with the United States to retain military and economic hegemony in Asia Pacific and to counter China’s muscle-flexing in the region.
The group is concerned that the proposed Japan-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement will also breed a next generation of comfort women.
Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador said Japan has never publicly apologized for the comfort women system that it employed during World War II, thus effectively denying justice for the victims of the wartime sexual slavery.
“When important historical facts like the systematic use of wartime sexual slaves is denied, there is always a real danger of it being repeated by future generations,” Salvador said.
She said that for as long as the Japanese government continues to refuse to apologize for wartime sexual slavery, there is no guarantee that it will not be repeated. She said a new generation of comfort women might arise in areas where there are joint Philippine- Japanese naval exercises.
“Just as the US is propping up a whole system of women prostitution in various areas where they are stationed,” said Salvador.
She also added that Emperor Akihito’s father Hirohito was a central figure during World War II. Contrary to the common perception that he was a powerless figure, Salvador said Hirohito was involved in the day-to-day management of the military aggression of the Japanese Imperial Army.
“As the saying goes, ‘The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the son. When Emperor Hirohito passed his throne to his son Akihito, the latter also inherited his sins, and thus, also the burden of correcting whatever injustice was done.”
She said Akihito, though currently deemed a figurehead in Japan, is still influential in the government and is highly respected by the Japanese people.
Salvador said the apology that the Emperor issued on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, was not enough for comfort women. “His sincerity is now questioned because he allowed the amendment of the Japanese Constitution that removed Article 9, which was framed to promote peace. Article 9 prohibits Japan from building its military power.
During the forum, Lila Pilipina members brought out origami cranes that symbolize peace. Extremadura said the lolas made the origami cranes to remind Aquino of the number of missed opportunities he had to pursue justice for them.
Extremadura said they hope against hope that Aquino will take advantage of the Emperor’s visit and bring up the issue of comfort women. They also hope that the Aquino government and Japan would finally reach an agreement, just like in South Korea.
However, she said, if Aquino should enter into an agreement, they want to be consulted. “Because we will not agree to a ‘gag of silence’’ like that stipulated in the Korea-Japan agreement,” Extremadura said.