WWII comfort women ask visiting Japanese emperor:

January 27, 2016

Lolas (elderly women) of Lila Pilipina, an organization of World War II comfort women victims, on Jan. 22, 2016 criticized President Benigno S. Aquino III for saying that the issue of apology and compensation by the Japanese government is now closed as far as he is concerned.  They asked the President to raise the Comfort Women issue with visiting Japanese Emperor Akihito. (The Japanese emperor and his wife arrived in Manila January 26.)

“We may be older than him but our memory is far clearer,” said Rechilda Extremadura, Executive Director of Lila Pilipina. “The lolas never heard an official statement of apology nor received compensation from the Japanese government. Perhaps he (Aquino) is the one suffering from dementia.”

At the issues-focused “Pandesal Forum” sponsored by Kamuning Bakery Cafe in Quezon City, Extremadura recalled Aquino saying in November 2010 that he will task then newly-appointed Ambassador Emmanuel Lopez to study the matter and come into a compromise with the Tokyo government on the apology. As for the compensation, he said then, he will ask Congress to enact a law that will ensure that the surviving lolas will be compensated from the funds provided for by the 1956 Reparations Agreement which he described as “all-encompassing,” that is, including comfort women. 

“It was all talk, as far as the lolas are concerned. Congress never came up with anything, except with resolutions filed by the Makabayan bloc,” Extremadura said.

She also said that they are doubtful that Aquino will broach the subject of apology and compensation with Emperor Akihito during the latter's Philippine visit at the end of the month.

In the same 2010 statement, Aquino said that Japan has the biggest ODA and largest investments in the country and he has to take that into consideration. “Now that a Visiting Forces agreement with Japan is in the works, Aquino has another reason not to go into this topic,” Extremadura said.

In the Pandesal Forum, four surviving Comfort Women victims of Lila Pilipina brought out origami cranes symbolizing peace which they themselves crafted to remind President Aquino of the number of opportunities missed in the quest for justice for the lolas

The four Comfort Women who are seeking justice are 85-year-old Narcisa Claveria of Ilocos Sur; 90-year-old Hilaria Bustamante of Singalong, Manila; 87-year-old Felicidad de los Reyes of Masbate; and 85-year-old Estelita Dy of Negros Occidental.

In the late 1980s, some 174 Comfort Women came out in the open to tell their yet untold stories of sexual slavery under the Japanese Imperial Army during World War 2. They became the founding members of Lila Pilipina. More than 30 years later, 104 have passed away, while the rest are now too weak or senile to actively come out for their struggle for justice.  

“Aquino will have an opportunity to at least bring up the topic of comfort women. Though we doubt that he will do so despite the grudging statement he recently made, we hope against hope that he will do a Korea. But, if he should enter into an agreement, we want to be consulted because we will not agree to a 'gag of silence'' like that stipulated in the Korea-Japan agreement,” Extremadura said.

Lila Pilipina was preparing a protest action for the visit of Emperor Akihito together with the national women’s alliance, GABRIELA, on January 27 during his courtesy call in Malacanang. 

Aside from the demand for apology and compensation from the Japanese government, Lila Pilipina and GABRIELA will use the occasion to protest the military alliance between the US and Japan and what they described as “the continuing puppetry of the Aquino government at the expense of sovereignty”.  The protest action will serve as the opening salvo of the campaign towards International Women's Day on March 8.

Also present to support the Comfort Women’s demand for justice, official government apology, compensation and Japan’s upholding historical accuracy about World War II were GABRIELA Women’s Party Congresswoman Emmi A. De Jesus, Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador, and University of the Philippines history Professor and Third World Studies Center Director, Dr. Ricardo T. Jose.

Prof. Ricardo Jose said: “Leaders of Japan had apologized only on a personal  basis, an overview type of apology, but not yet an official government apology...In contrast, post-World War II Germany not only officially apologized, they also upheld correct history and their national leader even knelt in front of a memorial of war victims in front of all the world. On this Comfort Women issue, there has been a lot of historical evidence. This is not rape, but sexual slavery. The Comfort Women stations were runlike businesses with office hours, patronized by officers and soldiers.  The Comfort Women operation of the Japanese military was extremely organized. My historian friends in the U.S. couldn’t believe it when they read the facts. Unfortunately, both the governments of the Philippines and Japan have not fully responded to the demand for justice by the Comfort Women victims, so this issue has not yet fully been rested.”

The “Pandesal Forum” of 77-year-old artisanal and pugon-style Kamuning Bakery Cafe of Quezon City hopes to help elevate the quality of public discourse in the Philippines on current affairs, also focusing on economic, gut or “pandesal” issues. It also advocates genuine reforms and new ideas. The non-partisan, liberal, pro-people and informal Pandesal Forum was started on September 15, 2015 by writer Wilson Lee Flores as convenor and moderator. Posted by CenPEG.org

Comfort Women of the Philippines appeal to President Aquino to convey to visiting Japanese Emperor Akihito their demands for official Japanese government apology, historical accuracy, and just compensation for World War II sex slavery war crimes during World War II. CenPEG photo

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