FOUR days before the state visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, a group of Filipino comfort women reiterated their demand for a public apology and compensation for the injustice they endured in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Rechilda Extremadura, Executive Director of Lila Pilipina, an organization for comfort women, said no Philippine leader has given much attention to the plight of Filipina sex slaves during World War II.
At the Pandesal forum in Quezon City on Friday, Lila Pilipina criticized President Benigno Aquino 3rd for saying that the issue on compensation and apology by the Japanese government is already closed as far as he is concerned.
“We may be older than him but our memory is far clearer. The lolas never heard an official statement of apology or received compensation from the Japanese government,” Extremadura told reporters.
Emperor Akihito and his wife will be in Manila from January 26 to 30, 2016. They will visit memorial sites for Filipino and Japanese veterans in Laguna province.
Extremadura recalled that in 2010, Aquino said he will order then former Ambassador Emmanuel Lopez to study the matter. The president also said he will ask Congress to craft a law that will ensure that the remaining comfort women will be compensated from the funds provided for by the 1956 Reparations Agreement which should include comfort women.
“As far as the lolas are concerned, it was all talk. Congress never came up with anything, except for resolutions filed by the Makabayan bloc.” Extremadura said.
She said they doubt if the President will even bring the matter on comfort women with Emperor Akihito.
“Now that a Visiting Forces agreement with Japan is in the works, Aquino has another reason not to go into this topic,” Extremadura added.
During the forum, four comfort women brought origami cranes that they said symbolize peace to remind Aquino of the number of “missed opportunities” to give justice for the comfort women.
The four women — Narcisa Claveria, 85, of Ilocos Sur, Hilaria Bustamante, 90, of Singalong, Manila, Felicidad de los Reyes,87, of Masbate and Estelita Dy, 85, of Negros Occidental – said they have three wishes – a public apology from Emperor Akihito, compensation of 20 million yen from the Japanese government, and the publication of their true stories in a book.
“Ang mensahe ko lang sa ating pangulo, ang sabi niya natapos na daw yung programa mula pa ng 1956 pero natapos na siguro pero kaming mga kababaihan na biktima ng karanasan noong panahon ng pangalawang digmaan ay wala pang natatanggap na tunay na hustisya. Kaming mga kababaihan, batang musmos pa kami ang laki na ang nawala sa amin, nawala ang aming dignidad, hindi kami nakapag aral, at malala ang inabot namin sa kamay ng sundalong hapon (The President said the issue has been closed in 1956 but we have not been given justice. We were so young when we were stripped of our dignity, we were not able to study, we suffered in the hands of Japanese soldiers)” Claveria said.
Claveria said she was taken to a Japanese garrison when she was around 13 years-old in her home in Abra with her two sisters and five other women. They were then sexually abused. She said her elder sister lost her mind because of the trauma.
Bustamante, meanwhile, said she was 16 when Japanese soldiers abducted and raped her inside a Japanese garrison. She said she suffered psychological trauma growing up.
Dy said she was 14 years old when she was physically and sexually abused in her home in Negros Occidental.
According to Extremadura, they started the organization in 1992 with a total of 174 comfort women, however, 104 of them had died. Most of those remaining are too weak to come out for their struggle for justice.
In December 2015, Japan and South Korea settled the issue on comfort women when Tokyo agreed to pay P1 billion yen for the Korean comfort women.
The Lila woman expressed hope that the Philippine government will also take up their cause.
Extremadura said Aquino should at least bring up the topic of comfort women with the Emperor.
Gabriela party-list Secretary General Joms Salvador said that Japan has never publicly apologized for the abuses of Japanese soldiers during World War 2.
“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.