Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Lolas are at the Palace Again: Voltaire Tupaz's article on

Comfort women: 'Hustisya para sa mga lola'

POSTED ON 07/27/2013 8:10 PM  | UPDATED 07/27/2013 10:04 PM
COMFORT WOMEN. Viictims of abuse of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and their supporters stage a picket outside Malacanang during the meeting of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Benigno Aquino III. Photo by EPA/Dennis Sabangan
MANILA, Philippines - While the President suggested the Philippines has moved on from its historic conflict with Japan, "comfort women" said they have not.
President Benigno Aquino III, in his toast during the state luncheon in honor of visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday, July 27, said: "Mr Prime Minister, the relations between our countries have been extensive and historic. After overcoming conflict, we have developed both a strong alliance and a deep friendship."
Outside the Palace gates, a group of comfort women were still crying for justice. "PM Shinzo Abe, we are victims of Japan's military's sexual slavery," the women lamented.
At least 200,000 Asian victims, including Filipino women and girls, were believed to have been forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II in what was termed as "comfort stations." Survivors and their families have been demanding an official apology and legal redress from Japan.
"Mahina at matanda na kami. Kilos na!" a placard read. (We're weak and old. Act now!)
US-based Filipina author M. Evelina Galang, who has written extensively on the plight of Filipina comfort women, lamented that Aquino and Abe did not include the issue in their agenda.
"PNoy is a nice man, but like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Erap Estrada, he has yet to acknowledge and honor and support the women of his nation, the lolas (grandmothers)," Galang told Rappler.
"People should know that the comfort women standing at the gates must now be in their late 80s and 90s protesting. Many have died," Galang added.
She noted that in Korea, the comfort women are recognized, honored, and supported by their own government.
"It took the women 50 years to step forward and tell their stories. Their demands are simple: They want Japan to make a formal apology to the women and their families. They want violence against women to end. They want justice," Galang said.
The writer recently completed her soon to be published book, "Lola's House: Women Living with War," which chronicles stories of 15 Filipina comfort women.
No evidence of sexual slavery?
Japan refuses to recognize its historical responsibility for the lmperial Armed Force's coercion of young women into sexual slavery during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands.
In 2007, Abe made a controversial statement that deviated from the widely accepted historical account of Japanese wartime atrocities.
"There was no evidence to prove there was coercion as initially suggested. That largely changes what constitutes the definition of coercion, and we have to take it from there," Abe said.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi earlier wrote a personal letter apologizing to the comfort women. In 2002, he said that the involvement of the Japanese military in the issue of comfort women during the war was “a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women.”
But Galang insisted that what the comfort women and their advocates want is the Japanese government's acknowledgment and apology.
"A personal apology is not the same thing as legislation from the Japanese government declaring their remorse over these crimes against humanity," Galang said.
Galang, considered one of the 100 most influential Filipinas in the US, advocated for the passage of House Resolution 121, the US Congressional Bill that asks Japan to make a formal apology.
STATE VISIT. The visit of Prime Minister Abe seeks to advance the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan. Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau/Ryan Lim

Strategic partnership
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs in previous statements emphasized the "importance of adhering to the language and tone" of Koizumi's apology.
But Aquino did not delve into the issue that has haunted the country and comfort women for years since the war ended.
"Moving forward, the Philippines fully intends to deepen our relationship with Japan so that we may bequeath to younger generations a legacy of prosperity, peace and productive solidarity between our countries," Aquino said.
Aquino's Japanese counterpart vowed to strength the strategic partnership of the two countries, pledging to help boost the Philippines’ maritime security and to extend other forms of aid.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

North Bay Report: "Comfort Women Radio: Interview 23 June 2012

Liga Ng Mga Lolang Pilipina (LILA Pilipina) protesting before the Japanese Embassy in Manila, Philippines.  2001

Every time a Japanese politician denies the story of the WWII "Comfort Women" and speaks out of turn in an attempt to silence the women's testimonies, in an attempt to erase them from Japanese history, in an attempt to justify the need for "Comfort Stations" they remind us all of the brutal and inhumane acts perpetrated against all our humanity—and in particular against 200,000 women and girls who might have been our grandmothers, our aunts, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters. Definitely, our ancestors. Your words back fire every time, Shinzo Abe, Toru Hashimoto and the rest of your parties. And their stories become clearer. And here is the truth: your government supported and allowed your soldiers to systematically treat women, girls and even some boys like animals. 

Until a formal and lasting apology is served, one that not only accepts the government's responsibilities in organizing, supporting, and maintaining these military sex slave camps, we will continue to tell the stories. 

So listen up. 

Here is an interview I gave last year to the North Bay Report. Click the link to hear the North Bay Report on "Comfort Women."

"Comfort Women"/North Bay Report Interview with M. Evelina Galang 23 June 2012

Japan Obstructs Justice for the Filipino "Comfort Women"

Legislation in the Filipino parliament was derailed and the government has deferred to Japan by never giving the women the recognition and support they deserve. Filipino boys were also used in the Comfort System. Despite memoirs and witnesses, this issue has never been even discussed.  Osaka Mayor's Remarks on "comfort Women" Enrage Group in Philippines

By Ronron Calunsod 

Manila, May 15 Kyodo -- Two groups of "comfort women" in the Philippines expressed rage Wednesday at the statement of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto about sexual servitude being necessary for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

The Lila Pilipina (League for Filipino Grandmothers) and Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers), who have a combined membership of 142 surviving victims of sexual slavery during wartime in the Philippines, said Hashimoto should apologize for justifying the wrongdoings of the Japanese military.

Hashimoto said Monday that sexual servitude by women in Asia was necessary for Japanese soldiers during wartime to maintain discipline in the military.

"I am afraid with Hashimoto's statement. I don't think the Japanese people should trust him if he has that opinion.

How can the Japanese people occupy a friendly space in the international community and promote brotherhood with that opinion?" Richilda Extremadura, president of Lila Pilipina, told Kyodo News.

"His statement is a manifestation of his view that any method can and should be used in times of war. That saddens and enrages us. I can't believe that a man in his position can still think that way at this time. The women are already old, why can't he think about them?" she said.

Isabelita Vinuya, 81, a victim of Japanese abuses in Pampanga Province who is now president of Malaya Lolas, said Hashimoto's statement "degraded us further because it means it is the job and obligation of women to allow themselves to be raped by the Japanese soldiers." "Does he mean the women are needed for their wrongdoings? That is not right. That is not acceptable. What are women to him? The Philippines, when it took part in the war, did not include women in any pervert acts, because that is not right," Vinuya told Kyodo News in a separate interview.

Extremadura and Vinuya said they are both saddened by Hashimoto's statement because it runs counter to what they are demanding from the Japanese government.

"Instead of justifying what his government did during World War II, he should be realizing at this stage that what they did was wrong. The first thing they should have done is to accept that fact because many comfort women are already dying, and many have died, without getting justice. They should be responsible and held accountable for that crime," Extremadura said.

She said that instead of justifying the "military culture of needing women," Hashimoto, being in government, could just have used his position and power to discuss his government's accountability and come up with a state policy on the issue.

"It's not very diplomatic for him to say that. He is the mayor of Osaka. What if he goes to a higher position in government? Will he still contend that the military should be provided with women? Our position is that nobody has the right to use and violate women in any circumstances," Extremadura said. "We really want justice for the grandmothers because we also want to put an end to the military culture of needing women." The two women said the Philippine government should also seek a formal apology from Hashimoto and condemn his statement.

"If this is a responsible government, it should represent the cause of its own citizens," Extremadura said even as she lamented how the Philippine government has not been supporting their battle.

"Hearing Hashimoto's statement makes me sadder because we have been fighting our cause without any support from the Philippine government.

But still, I am appealing on our government to denounce Hashimoto's statement," Vinuya said as she expressed envy of the comfort women in South Korea, who, she said, are enjoying full support from their government.

"How can abuses against Filipino women all over the world stop if the Philippine government cannot even fight for us who have long been in this struggle?" she asked.

Foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez said, "The Philippines reiterates the importance of adhering to the language and tone of the Kono Statement of 1993 and of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's 2002 letter to Filipino comfort women." In his letter, Koizumi extended his "most sincere apologies and remorse" to the "comfort women," and wrote, "We must not evade the weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future." "The Philippine government has always urged Japanese authorities to be more circumspect in their public statements relating to this issue, as they strike at the core of the feelings and sensitivities of those who experienced great suffering during World War II," Hernandez said.

The two organizations have been asking the Philippine government to back their demand from the Japanese government for formal apologies and legal compensation.

But they claim their pleas always fall on deaf ears, the last pair that of President Benigno Aquino, who, up to this time, still has to present the result of an order he gave to Philippine ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez in 2010 about studying "a compromise" on the demands of the war victims "that is acceptable to all parties." The organizations have refused to accept the statements of apologies made by Japanese officials over the years because, for them, they do not come with an admission of the crime that was committed.

Compensation made through the Asia Women's Fund, a Japanese government-initiated private relief foundation, was also rejected by some comfort women, saying it did not directly come from the government.

"When we organized in 1997, we were 90.

Now, there are only 39 of us because the rest have already died. Most of us now are already weak and ill. When can we get justice? When we all have already died?" Vinuya asked.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Response to Mayor Toru Hashimoto of Osaka, Japan

"In the circumstances in which bullets are flying like rain and wind, the soldiers are running around at the risk of losing their lives ... if you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary.  Anyone can understand that."

—Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka and co-founder of the right wing Japan Restoration Party

Toru Hashimoto’s comments on May 13, 2013 are an affront to humanity.  Acts of sexual violence against any man or woman or child at any time and under any circumstance are inexcusable.  No justification can be made for these heinous acts against 200,000 women and girls in China, Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.

I have been researching the lives of surviving Filipina “Comfort Women” of WWII since 1997.  In 2001, I spent eight months touring the abduction sites and “comfort stations” of fifteen survivors.  Their testimonies reveal the grotesque details of Japanese soldiers systematically kidnapping women and girls, holding them against their will, and repeatedly raping, humiliating and berating them.

The “Comfort Stations” survivors have taken me to are not bordellos.  The women were kept in churches, classrooms, government buildings, fish bins, and shacks. They were systematically raped—sometimes more than a dozen times a day.  They were not allowed to bathe or given a moment to rest and clean themselves.  They were not all women.  There were girls without their menses.  Some were only eight, some old women.  They were treated like animals.

In 1943, when seventeen year-old Pilar Frias resisted her attackers in Bikol in the Philippines, one of the Japanese soldiers burned her face with a cigarette.  With the end of a bayonet, another solider slashed her nose. Five soldiers raped Pilar Frias then tied her at the waist to three other women and dragged the women behind them as the soldiers patrolled the countryside. The four girls moved as one unit.  When one lay down to sleep, four lay down to sleep.  If one fell, the others followed. When one was raped, all four were raped. Repeatedly. 

It is long past time that the Japanese government takes full responsibility, makes a clear and sincere apology and acknowledges these war crimes against humanity. 

Hear Congressman Ed Royce's response to Mayor Hashimoto: