KUWENTONG KULE: Lolas/WW II women victims of sexual slavery, violence are dying without seeing justice

By: ATTY. DENNIS R. GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | December 15,2020 - 09:00 AM

The recent deaths of three World War II women victims of sexual slavery and violence are manifestations that the survivors are dying without receiving a formal apology and legal compensation from Japan.

Supporters documented this year the deaths of three Lolas: 90-year-old Felicidad delos Reyes of Quezon City last Feb. 1, 2020, 88-year-old Maria Estadio Arroyo of Capiz last October 15,  2020, and Virginia Arrenque.

It has been 75 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.

About 200,000 women from Korea, China, Burma, New Guinea, and the Philippines were held in captivity and many thousands more were raped as part of one of the largest operations of sexual violence in modern history.

It was in the late 1990s that the Lolas came out as part of Lila Filipina and Malaya Lolas to tell the world about this inhuman practice of the Japanese during the war.

Twenty years ago, the Women’s Tribunal that sat in Tokyo, Japan from December 8 to 12, 2000 deliberated on the criminal liability of high-ranking Japanese military and political officials, as well as the Japanese state’s responsibility for military rape and sexual slavery.

As the tribunal greatly advanced the compilation and record of historical data and evidence to support accounts on human rights abuses, it also pushed back against the assumption that sexual violence is an inevitable product of war.

The commission or avoidance of sexual violence, the tribunal concluded, is dependent on whether the armed organization chooses to authorize its systematic commission in pursuit of military objectives, or effectively prohibit it.

According to the independent, nonprofit media organization NPR, “comfort women” is a linguistically warped categorization of the thousands of women and girls, many from poor communities, who were forced to serve as sex slaves.

The Japanese called them “comfort women” — a term derived from the Japanese word ianfu, combining the Chinese characters meaning “comfort or solace” (i-an) with woman (fu).

The enslavement camps where they were forced to have sexual intercourse with Japanese soldiers were called “comfort stations” and were often the same garrisons where they were being held.

However, lawyer Romel Bagares of CenterLaw, said in an interview by NPR that “the term hides the untold abuse the victims suffered under the Japanese Imperial Army and denies the victims the dignity they deserve.”

He says some advocates urge that the term be changed to “survivors of the wartime female slavery system.”

Bagares represented the Malaya Lolas 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).

The women ranging from 13 to early 20s were ordered to walk from Mapaniqui to the Bahay na Pula in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, which became “comfort stations” where they became victims of military sexual violence and slavery.

Lawyer Virginia Lacsa Suarez told NPR that the Asian Women’s Fund and the Philippine Justice Department decided that the Malaya Lolas did not qualify as “comfort women” because they were not held or abused over an extended period.

She says those molested at the Red House may not be “comfort women” per se, “but they are victims of military sexual violence. And for that, they deserve to be legally compensated.”

NPR quoted 88-year-old Isabelita Vinuya lamenting that “rape is still rape whether it was done for days, for months or for years. The effect is the same. It destroyed our bodies, our sense of self. We lived in shame for years.”

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 deaths of Felicidad, Maria and Virginia occurred three years after  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 statue was dismantled on April 27, 2018 under cover of darkness by the DPWH, allegedly for a drainage improvement project.

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.

The statue was later declared missing August 2019 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.

As they slowly diminish in number, justice has not been given to the Lolas as their fight for unequivocal public apology, accurate historical inclusion, and just compensation continues up to this day.

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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TAGS: comfort women, Kuwentong Kule, lolas, World War II

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