Comfort women's group to continue fight for justice
A comfort women’s rights organization on Monday said victims during the World War II are slowly passing away and their quest for justice should not die with them.
This as International Solidarity Council for Redress is set to unveil a statue that will represent victims of rape during the World War II and martial law era in the Philippines at Caticlan, Aklan on February 5.
“The purpose of the statue is to show that there was a war crime in World War II, and that is military sexual slavery. And it is unsettle so we don’t want that it is forgotten. It’s because (the victims) are now old, starting to passed away, and with their death, we don’t want the issue to die down with them,” said ISCR Manila coordinator Nelia Sancho in a press conference in Manila.
“Not only to honor their memory but also to remember that this war crime should be settle so that it does not happen in any kind of war and armed conflict,” she said.
Sancho said they will continue to intensify their campaign until the Japanese government is ready to address the issue “honorably”.
“We hope that the Japanese government will change its attitude and settle this issue honorably and in a principled way,” she said.
“We hope that Filipinos and of course we will hope to create this more strong public sentiments,” said Sancho.
She said Filipina comfort women are demanding the Japanese government a public apology and state compensation for alleged abuses they have done during the World War II.
Lola Fidencia, who said she was a victim of Japanese soldiers at the age of 14 ,said she wants to meet President Rodrigo Duterte to help them in achieving the justice they deserve.
“I have dreamed of (meeting) President (Rodrigo) Duterte. That’s why I said, once I meet him I will ask him to help us since we are only few who are fighting this battle,” she told The Daily Manila Shimbun.
Recalling what happened to her during the Japanese occupation, Lola Fidencia said she was forced to experienced abuse after her family hide in the tunnel they created and let her face the soldiers.
Since it’s a shame to be a comfort women during their time, she decided to go out and tell her story on 1993.
“My wish is for the Japanese government to help us because we are getting fewer. The Japanese government should face the abuses they made to us during the World War II. We keep on hoping but nothing is happening,” said Lola Fidencia.
She said they are very happy that with this statue, their fight is not being forgotten.
The statue that will be unveiled in Aklan is the second comfort women statue that will be erected in the country. The first one in Roxas Boulevard was removed last year allegedly due to pressure from the Japanese government.
Sancho said the Philippines is the only country to “succumb” to the pressure of the Japanese and she is still hoping that the Duterte administration will take an “honorable” stand on the issue of Filipina comfort women.
“We are urging strongly..the Philippine government to take an honorable stand on this issue on military comfort women and we are actually ashamed of the attitude of Philippine government to give in to the pressure of removing the statue. Although the presidential spokesperson (Salvador Panelo) said there is freedom of expression, and yet they allowed the pressure to be felt by those who have set these statues up from the Japanese Embassy,” she said.
She said the statue will be installed in a private property which her family owns so there is no violation and no way for the Japanese government to remove the statue.
“I own it (the lot), it is under the Sancho property,” Sancho told The Daily Manila Shimbun.
“I hope that they will not find a way to remove it,” she added.
ISCR international coordinator Ken Arimitsu said they are “confident” that it will not be remove.
A representative from South Korea said the organization aims to work together to establish common movement internationally.
“To work together and support each other and also demand together to the Japanese government. The purpose of this activity is to share and exchange information and to work together… It’s very important to establish solidarity internationally,” said Son Chol-Su.
Based on the records of ISCR, as of this time, only 81 comfort women victims are still alive out of the hundred victims they have documented from eight countries, including the Philippines.
They will also send an open letter to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week demanding redress for all the World War II victims by Japan.
“We also strongly criticize the Japanese government and their embassy in Manila which put unjust pressure to remove two symbolic statues of the comfort women in Manila and Laguna,” ISCR said in a statement.
“The mission of them is to realize the redress for the ex-comfort women in the Philippines and not violate the freedom of art expression shamelessly,” it added. Ella Dionisio/DMS