MANILA – A women’s rights group in the Philippines has asked President Benigno Aquino III to bring up the “comfort women” issue with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when the two leaders meet Saturday in Manila.
In an interview Thursday, Richilda Extremadura, president of Lila Pilipina (League for Filipino Grandmothers), expressed hope that Aquino, when he meets with Abe, will not forget the Filipino females who were sexually abused by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
“If it will not be on the agenda, it would show that President Aquino does not have any concern about the comfort women issue, particularly, for the grandmothers who are nearing the end of their lives but have yet to receive justice,” Extremadura said, noting 73 of nearly 200 members, former sex slaves for the Imperial forces, have already died. The latest death occurred July 12.
Abe, who by Filipino rights groups is perceived as unsympathetic toward the comfort women issue, was to arrive in Manila on Friday evening and meet with Aquino on Saturday, ending a three-day Southeast Asia trip whose first stops were Malaysia and Singapore.
Abe’s trip is said to be aimed at deepening Japan’s economic and security ties with fast-growing Southeast Asia amid tension with China over a territorial dispute.
“We pray that we will not slip from President Aquino’s mind when he meets with the Japanese prime minister. When he was still a congressman, he was very much aware of our issue. He would even approach us when we lobbied for our cause. He knows we are asking Japan for an unequivocal apology, for the historical inclusion of the realities of Japanese military sexual slavery in the Philippines, and for just compensation for the victims,” Extremadura said.
“I think the Japanese government should see that it is urgent that justice should be delivered to the victims because our grandmothers are dying over time. This year, three have died. Last year, there were four. They are dying without having peace because justice was denied to them,” she said.
Another woman belonging to Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers), a different rights group, died recently in Pampanga province, north of Manila.
Extremadura said she believes Abe has been issuing statements and policies contrary to her group’s cause, so no discussion about the comfort women between him and Aquino “will certainly make Abe happy.”