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Comfort Women Statue in Manila Causes Controversy

A seven-foot bronze sculpture of a blindfolded Filipina women wearing a traditional gown, built on December 8th, sits along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Gabriela Alliance of Women secretary general Joms Salvador urged President Rodrigo Duterte to develop a concrete and clear policy on the issue of comfort women, who were women forced into sex slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

“This monument is in honor of Filipino women who were victims of abuse during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945). A long time has passed before they testified and revealed what they went through,” the statue’s inscription reads.

Japan already paid 280 women in the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan about $18,000 each back in 1995. In addition, the country recently apologized to South Korea for using Korean comfort women and paid the country $8.3 million.

This statue is creating high tensions with Japan, because the country is a major source of aid and investment for the Philippines, despite Japan’s previous treatment of these comfort women, Reuters reports. A spokesperson from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign affairs has called the erection of such statues, including the one in the Phillipines, “extremely regrettable.”

Gabriela believes the President should seek compensation and an official apology from Japan for Filipino women who served as comfort women.

Inquirer states that the National Historic Commission of the Philippines approved the statue’s construction, but the Chinese-Filipino Tulay Foundation commissioned this statue. Duterte eventually decided the statue serves as a freedom of expression, so he cannot stop its construction, according to ABS-CBN News.

“That is a constitutional right which I cannot stop. It’s prohibitive for me to do that,” Duterte told Mindanews.

Despite Duterte’s response, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano believes the country’s long-term relationship with Japan could become jeopardized.

Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas recently delivered a Privilege Speech regarding the memorial.

“Clearly, Japan’s government sees the statue as a taunt that puts its blossoming relations with the Philippines at stake,” said Brosas.

She explained how the Japanese’s denial and distortion of history disrespects both Japan and victims, so the country must publicly reverse this action.

“If Japan really wants to settle the issue and make amends, it should formally apologize to the Lolas and recognize the systemic sexual abuse that the Japanese Imperial Army propagated in order to silence and subjugate the Filipino people,” she said.

Teresita Ang See, the co-founder of another Chinese-Filipino group called Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, does not believe the statue should lead to deteriorating foreign relations with Japan because comfort women remain a significant part of unchangeable history the country cannot avoid, according to Rappler.

“I do understand that we have to deal with our friends and neighbors cordially and diplomatically. But this does not mean we have to be subservient to unreasonable demands,” said Ang See. “The Japanese occupation is a fact. The atrocities, persecutions, massacres, rape, and other war crimes are facts. These we cannot and should not deny.”

This statue continues plaguing Japan as women seek vindication for their mistreatment. However, the country cannot deny information in the history books and will either have to find a solution or tolerate the statue’s presence.

Featured Image by Bernard Spragg. NZ on Flickr

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