Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Our Filipino Comfort Women, the Fight for True Justice Goes On

Our Filipino Comfort Women, the Fight for True Justice Goes On
By Erick San Juan

I was visited by my former aging nannie (yaya) named Beata last week and she showed me several news clippings-releases about comfort women. She narrated a friends sad experience during the war. She said that she was 13 when her friend was detained, along with her grandmother, by Japanese soldiers in a municipal hall-turned-garrison in Dasol, Pangasinan. For 10 days, she was forced to do manual labor during the day and repeatedly raped at night. Later on, she would witness her own grandmother being raped and killed.

Fidencia David is one of the few living comfort women, a euphemism for military sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Lolas Kampanyeras, the comfort-women support group she belongs to, now has less than 10 active members from over a hundred when it formed in 2000.

Seven decades after the war, they’re still waiting for an official apology, just compensation and inclusion of their story in history books.

David was one of the first victims to step forward and file a legal suit against the Japanese government as part of the first comfort women group, Lila Pilipina.

None of those cases prospered. Lack of government support has also been blamed for the loss of every legal battle since 1998. (Source: Comfort women keep the faith by Nathalie Tomada, The Philippine Star, April 4, 2016)

This is the very sad state of our comfort women, not even the government has taken any effort to fight for their cause. To wit :

“Before Gloria Arroyo ran for presidency, she promised the lolas of Lila Pilipina (an organization of survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery during WWII) that if they vote for her, she will put her attention to the issue because, according to the lolas, Gloria Arroyo told them that “Babae din daw siya.” It was all talk.

In 2010, President Aquino said that he will task former Ambassador Emmanuel Lopez to handle the plight of the comfort women. He also promised that he will ask Congress to create a law to guarantee that the comfort women will get compensation from the 1956 Reparations Agreement. As far as the comfort women lolas are concerned, nothing came out of it. Again, it was all talk.

The Philippine government stated that the lolas have already been compensated through the Asian Women’s Fund, which was created by Japan to give out compensation packages and loans to “certified” comfort women. This “compensation,” however, does not reach the entirety of the comfort women.

And if it did, still, no amount of money can ever make up for the decades of trauma and pain that the comfort women have gone through. Japan still hasn’t apologized unequivocally for their war crimes. Money alone will never be enough to compensate for the atrocities of the Japanese Imperial Forces.” (Source: 8 Facts You Should Know About Filipino Comfort Women by Cody Cepeda, 1/26/2016)

Time is the essence of why concerned people and support groups wanted to immediately give what is due to all Filipino comfort women and maybe to their heirs because our lolas are dying.

According to a clinical psychologist and Kampanyeras coordinator Cristina Rosello. “But this is also the right time (to step up the campaign) because media interest has waned, (we’re sounding like a) broken record and the lolas are dying.”

Rosello, who authored the book “Disconnect: The Filipino Comfort Women,” has been a volunteer psychologist to comfort women since 1995.

Based on her studies, their experiences could be described as worse, as they exhibited combined symptoms of single-rape events victims and prisoners of war.

“So you would be shocked, how did these women survive?” Rosello asked.

She noted that what happened to the Filipino comfort women was distinct and “explicitly criminal” because not only were they non-combatants, it happened towards the end of the war when aggression was much more brutal.

The comfort women issue, however, has grown complex amidst “deepening friendly relations” between the Philippines and Japan.

According to Rosello, they’ve been told that the government “cannot deal with the issue without considering the context that Japan is now an ally and providing economic aid.”

The only historical marker for comfort women is found in Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila in the hope that the tragedy will never happen again.

For Rosello, the implications of continuing the fight for these lolas – the living but fast-fading reminders of wartime atrocities – are wide-ranging.

“We should get redress and justice for these women because they didn’t deserve the wartime victimization. Their suffering didn’t stop in the war, it continued beyond. A lot of them brought the grief to their deathbed,” she said. (From Nathalie Tomada’s article)

Are we going to stop the fight after the last of our lolas who are victims of war atrocities meet its Creator? As what Cody Cepeda said, which I agree, “With or without the lolas in this life, the fight for true justice goes on.”


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