“Please don’t forget about us.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “Please don’t forget about us.”
Comfort women reminded President Rodrigo Duterte as he left for Japan today for a three-day state visit.
Rechilda Extremadura, Lila Filipina executive director, appealed to the President to include the demands of comfort women in his meeting with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
She lamented that past administrations have constantly failed to raise with the Japanese government the demand by Lolas (grandmothers) for Japan’s apology and historical inclusion.
With Duterte’s stand on independent foreign policy, the group has high hopes that the President “can stand up to Japan and seek recognition for the wartime sexual slavery that the comfort women endured during World War II.”
“Our previous leaders have failed us because they are all afraid of rumpling feathers of diplomacy with Japan. With Duterte, who, we believe is no pushover, we are hopeful that finally the issue will be placed in the agenda, at the very least,” Extremadura said in a statement.
The “comfort women” were in their early teens during World War II when they were abducted and detained as sexual slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army. They endure the pain up to now, decades after the World War II, with the Japanese government’s refusal to admit its war crimes.
There are only less than 10 active comfort women from the group Lila Filipina who, despite old age and weak condition, stand firm in demanding public apology and reparation. They are also protesting policies such as the Philippine-Japan Visiting Forces Agreement, which was proposed during the Aquino administration. They said this would bring about another generation of comfort women.
“We support Duterte’s statement that he will not allow foreign military troops, including Japanese troops, in the country. We reiterate our call: Never again to another generation of comfort women,” Extremadura said.
‘Formal apology needed to move on’
The Gabriela Women’s Party who supports the call of the Lolas also urged Duterte to take up the Filipino comfort women’s demand with the Japanese government. GWP Rep. Emmi De Jesus said to move forward and move on, the Japanese prime minister should issue a formal and official apology “instead of the personal and unofficial apologies and half-hearted monetary private reparations that many of their representatives keep offering.”
The Asian Women Fund for one, gave “compensation” to comfort women but funds came from the citizens of Japan and not the Japanese government. This was also met by protest of activists in countries where there are comfort women.
The Japanese government has not issued any formal apology to all comfort women across the globe. The apology issued to the comfort women of South Korea and China was criticized as not enough and an attempt to silence the survivors of sexual violence during the World War II.
A report said that part of Japan’s “apology” to South Korea is a $8.3-million (1 billion yen) pledge to support the medical, nursing and other support services for comfort women. In exchange, among many other conditions is for South Korea to remove the memorial built by Korean comfort women in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
The GWP said they expect Duterte to push the demands of Lolas “just as he demanded accountability from the US government for its war atrocities committed in the country.”
“He must reverse the proposals made by the Aquino administration of enacting a VFA with Japan to prevent repeating the horrors of war and sexual slavery of our women,” said GWP Rep. Arlene Brosas.
On Friday, Oct. 28, the women’s group Gabriela will commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the National Day of Women’s Protests where they will call on Duterte to take stronger positions on genuine independent foreign relations and patriotic economic policies based on non-aggression, mutual respect, and full sovereignty.