MANILA — Aging Filipino “comfort women” staged a protest on Thursday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila ahead of the visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the country, Xinhua reports.
The protesters urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte anew to raise their plight in his meeting with Abe who starts on Thursday afternoon his overnight official visit in Manila and Davao City, Duterte’s home city.
Duterte, who made a visit to Japan last October, will welcome Abe at the Malacanang presidential palace. A state banquet awaits Abe at the palace after the welcome ceremony at the palace ground, Duterte’s office said.
“We call on Duterte not to forget to bring up with Abe the still unaddressed demands by our fast aging and diminishing lolas (grandmothers) for formal apology from the (Japanese) government to all Asian comfort women and restitution for the hurt they inflicted on thousands of women,” said Rechilda Extremadura, executive director of Lila Pilipina, an organization of World War II comfort women.
“Our lolas also want Duterte to resist renewing the possibilities of letting new Japanese troops conduct exercises, train local security forces, and make bases in our country to avoid another brutal campaign of war and pillage.”
She lamented that the previous Philippine administrations have ignored the plight of the Filipino women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels as sexual slaves during World War II in talks with the Japanese government.
Gabriela, a women’s organization, also warned Duterte not to ditch the “comfort women” issue for economic aids. “Duterte should not take the so-called aid and loans as cosmetic beams to paper over the cries of comfort women for genuine justice and recognition,” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela.
Like Bayan and Lila Pilipina, Gabriela also raised the alarm over Japan’s plan “to return to its aggressive wartime stance.” Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Women) has documented 174 “comfort women” who have gone public since early 1990s. Only 70 of them remain alive, including Bustamante.
Another group, the Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers), has documented 90 but the number dwindled to 33 following the death of the rest over the years. Both groups are demanding official apology, just compensation, and inclusion of the comfort women issue in Japan’s historical accounts and textbooks.
The Philippine government has intentionally avoided discussions of the issue in bilateral talks with Japan.