Four Filipinos forced into wartime sexual slavery by Imperial Japanese soldiers rallied Thursday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila to repeat their demand for justice from the Japanese government as they commemorated International Memorial Day for Comfort Women.
Backed by family members and supporters from a women’s rights group, the four women in their 80s from Lila Pilipina (League for Filipino Grandmothers) insisted that the government own up to the crimes perpetrated by its soldiers, apologize and put them in Japan’s official historical accounts so the next generation will be aware of them and provide just compensation.
“Our problem is not yet over. We need justice,” 84-year-old Estelita Dy, who was physically and sexually abused at the age of 14 in her home province of Negros Occidental in the central Philippines, said at the demonstration.
“After experiencing that life in the garrison and being raped, I swear that until I die, I will fight for justice, not just for me but for all the women who were victims during the war,” Narcisa Claveria, 85, said.
While all four women opted to accept payment from the Asian Women’s Fund, set up with donations in 1995 to atone for the sexual slavery, they said it was not simply compensation they were seeking for their ruined lives.
“They ruined our lives as women. My elder sister, she lost her mind because of the trauma. And I took care of her until she died. If this happened to you in Japan, would you be happy about it?” asked Claveria, who recalled being brought into a Japanese garrison when she was 13 or 14 in her home province Abra north of Manila together with her two sisters and five other women. They were then sexually abused.
They also reiterated that the offer of apologies from various Japanese officials on various occasions has been insufficient because they said it does not reflect that of the government.
The group’s executive director, Richilda Extremadura, said they are studying the possibility of seeking court intervention for the Philippine government to back their demands from the Japanese government, just as the South Korean government has begun to do for the large number of Koreans who were forced into sexual servitude.
Despite a recent decision of the Philippine Supreme Court to reject the same demands from another group of Filipinos, the Malaya Lolas or Free Grandmothers, Extremadura said Lila Pilipina remains hopeful.
“While we are still waging the struggle, we hope. Maybe, we’ll not get what we want in the time of President (Benigno) Aquino or Shinzo Abe’s administration. But we will not stop our struggle because that is the only assurance of hope that justice will be delivered to the ‘lolas’,” she said.
“What I’m only afraid of is, we are running out of time. Seventy-seven of our lola members have already died. There are around 97 left, but most of them are already senile.”
The four women and Extremadura also objected to the Philippines-U.S. Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, as well as the plan to deepen the role played by the Self-Defense Forces, fearing that militarism in the Asia-Pacific region is resurging.
“If they do that, what happened to us will happen also to the next generation. I don’t believe that they want to just engage actively in humanitarian missions. It’s just a trick. They and the American forces really want to be active militarily again. And we oppose that,” Dy said.
The group later went to the U.S. Embassy to press their point.
There were an estimated 1,000 Filipino women sexually abused by Japanese soldiers during the nation’s occupation until the end of World War II.