WWII sexual slavery and violence victims seek justice before the United Nations
Justice has not been given to World War II women victims of sexual slavery and violence as their fight for unequivocal public apology, accurate historical inclusion, and just compensation continues up to this day.
Last November 25, the group Malaya Lolas sued the Philippine government filed the complaint in the form of a communication submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Part of Malaya Lolas’ 38-page communication states that “the failure of the Philippine government to espouse the claims of the victims in respect to reparations for having been subject to sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual violence as well as torture perpetuates a culture of impunity for discrimination against women within the meaning of Article 1.”
Their counsel Romel Bagares of CenterLaw said the victims have resorted to filing the complaint before the UN after exhausting all legal efforts in Philippine courts to seek reparation.
The lolas want the international body to “urge” the Philippines to “provide full and effective redress and reparation, including compensation, satisfaction, official apologies and rehabilitative services.”
The complaint was filed two days after the anniversary of the so called Mapaniqui Siege when the Imperial Japanese Army on November 23, 1944 attacked Mapaniqui in Candaba, Pampanga a suspected bailiwick of Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HukBaLaHap).
Communities were bombed, houses were looted and burned.
Women were forced to watch under the sun the men and boys being publicly tortured, mutilated, and slaughtered by the Japanese army. Their sexual organs were severed and forced into the mouths of the victims. When the massacre was over, the corpses were thrown into a large pit and set ablaze.
The women ranging from 13 to early 20s were then ordered to walk to the Bahay na Pula in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, which became “comfort stations” where they became victims of military sexual violence and slavery.
As a result of the actions of their Japanese tormentors, the victims have spent their lives in misery, having endured physical injuries, pain and disability, and mental and emotional suffering.
The women broke their silence in August 1996, four years after Maria Rosa Luna Henson made public her ordeal as a “comfort woman.”
The Malaya Lolas was then established which initially had 90 members. Sadly, more than two decades later, their present number dwindled to 29 due to deaths of its members.
The Malaya Lolas claim that since 1998, they have approached the Philippine government requesting assistance in filing a claim against the Japanese officials and military officers who ordered the establishment of the “comfort women” stations in the Philippines.
However, government officials declined to assist the Malaya Lolas, and took the position that the individual claims of the comfort women for compensation had already been fully satisfied by Japan’s compliance with the Peace Treaty between the Philippines and Japan.
In 2014, the Supreme Court finally denied the petition filed by Malaya Lola to declare the Philippine government guilty of grave abuse of discretion for refusing to espouse their claims for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Court ruled that while it commiserates with the sufferings of the women of Mapanique, this, allegedly, is one instance where there is a violation of right but bereft of a legal remedy. The Court also said that while rape is prohibited, there is no non-derogable obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those who committed mass rape as a war crime.
Two years ago, a 2-meter-high “Lola” statue of an unnamed woman wearing a traditional Filipino dress, blindfolded, with hands clutched to her chest, was installed on December 7, 2017 along Roxas Boulevard.
The LOLA statue represents Filipino women’s dignity and stands as “a reminder that wars of aggression must always be opposed, and that sexual slavery and violence should never happen again to any woman, anywhere at any time.”
Sadly, four months after its installation in December 2017, the statue was dismantled under cover of darkness on April 27, 2018 by the DPWH, allegedly for a drainage improvement project, but seen as submission to protests from Japan.
Issues of historical revisionism and the government’s submission to Japanese policy were raised by concerned groups led by the Flowers-for-Lolas as they condemned the removal of the statue. President Duterte earlier remarked the state would not want to “antagonize” other countries.
The statue was later declared missing last August due to the failure of its artist, Jonas Roces to deliver the statue back to the Tulay Foundation for the supposed reinstallation at the Baclaran Redemptorist Church.
It has been more than 70 years since the war ended on August 15, 1945, and yet the Japanese government refuses to recognize its official accountability to the victims of sex slavery.
Kule is the monicker of Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786).
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