“After being victims of Japanese war crimes, comfort women are now being made victims of historical distortion.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Defying the physical limits to their age, Filipina “comfort women” continue to demand justice, as they again trooped to the Japanese Embassy on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
The lolas (grandmothers) under Lila Pilipina were particularly fuming about the reported moves by the Japanese government to distort history by denying the existence of wartime sexual slavery and the forcible drafting of “comfort women” by the Japanese Imperial Army.
A report said the Japanese government made an official statement in its report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which said “the forceful taking away by the government and the military during the war could not be confirmed in any documents it investigated.”
“After being victims of Japanese war crimes, comfort women are now being made victims of historical distortion,” said Rechilda Extremadura, executive director of Lila Pilipina, an organization of Filipino comfort women.
Extremadura said that in Japan’s desire to restore its military power side-by-side its former enemy, the United States, it is now sweeping the comfort women issue under the rug to deny their existence altogether.
Extremadura said that they have submitted documents and testimonies from victims long ago to the Japanese government and the UN. As a result, the UN had already declared World War II sexual slavery as a war crime.
“But Japan still continues to contradict the UN and refuses to abide by the resolutions regarding the comfort women system as a war crime. And now, it is revising history by making deals that would silence the victims as they did to Korea,” she said.
Extremadura said their demands remain the same: unequivocal apology and just compensation from the Japanese government, and for the crime to be recorded in history books.
Extremadura asserts that, now more than ever, this demand has gained more significance. “The Emperor was right in saying that the younger generation must know their history, and this should include the stories of comfort women. There may not be many comfort women left to hear the apology or personally receive compensation should Japan, by a miracle, suddenly agree to it, but historical inclusion will give justice even to the lolas who have died fighting for their cause,” she added.
The protesters proceeded to Chino Roces Bridge (former Mendiola bridge) to criticize President Aquino, who they said is “on his last few months in office before he goes to jail.” They lambasted Aquino for being silent on the issue when he faced Japanese Emperor Akihoto who recently visited the Philippines.
“Worthless. He was worthless for the lolas for the whole of his six years in office,” Extremadura said.
Extremadura also lamented that not one of the presidential bets have said anything about comfort women.
“It seems like all the wanna-be leaders would not want to rock the US-Japan boat by siding with the lolas. But of course, the campaign has just started and they can all pay lip service to the lola’s cause. We will just have to separate the chaff from the grains and discern who is the most sincere.”
She challenged the presidential and senatorial candidates to “outdo themselves and push for justice for the comfort women.”
“Follow the lead of Neri Colmenares and the Makabayan bloc who were the only voice we heard that supported the lolas campaign, especially when the Emperor visited. You have already betrayed senior citizens when you failed to override the Social Security Service pension increase bill, redeem yourselves by siding with another set of senior citizens with a just cause,” Extremadura said.
‘A national shame’
Meanwhile, Eve Ensler, women’s rights activist, playwright and author of the “Vagina Monologues” described the injustice to the comfort women as a “national shame.”
In the “One Billion Rising 2016” press conference on Feb. 8, comfort woman Narcisa Calveria or Lola Isa, 85, decried continuing injustice. The emotional Lola Isa said they are old but they will never be tired of demanding justice even if the war has been over 70 years ago.
“I am really sorry,” said Ensler, addressing Lola Isa. “It is a shame that the Philippine government has not made it right with the comfort women in all these years. I met her (Lola Isa) 15 years ago and she is still sitting here without justice. That is a national shame on the government,” she said.
Ensler slammed the government for selling out justice for the comfort women in exchange of the proposed Japan-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement. “I think this is the year that the government has to recognize and get justice from the Japanese government and stop selling out the comfort women for the militarization of this country. It is shameful.”
“It is simply outrageous that we sit here with Lola Narcisa, who is one of the most gracious, kind people who has been fighting for justice and still saying there is no justice after 25 years. It’s criminal, and this government is responsible and this country should be rising with us to make this government responsible until her day of justice comes,” Ensler said.