A backhoe stands behind the statue days before it was demolished.
Marc Jayson Cayabyab
Comfort woman statue in Manila removed
Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - April 29, 2018 - 12:00am

The statue of a comfort woman erected along Roxas Boulevard in Manila Bay was removed overnight yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines — The site of the statue, once a seven-foot bronze statue of a blindfolded woman garbed with a veil, was reduced to rubble when The STAR visited Baywalk in Malate yesterday.

Manila city administrator Ericson Alcovendaz confirmed to The STAR that the statue was removed at around 10 p.m. Friday along with two other statues in Baywalk to give way to a flood control project by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The statue was promptly returned to the sculptor, Alcovendaz said, noting that the DPWH met with the foundation that built the controversial statue and the city government for the flood control project.

Alcovendaz denied the statue was demolished in response to the dismay expressed by the Japanese embassy in Manila over the erection of the statue.

A Komatsu backhoe that was parked weeks ago behind the comfort woman statue had been reported to the police for illegal display and for disrespecting the statue, a police officer who requested anonymity on beat patrol in the area told reporters.

Alcovendaz said the backhoe was relocated away from the statue as a sign of respect but was later replaced over the site after the statue was removed.

The Komatsu backhoe was spotted on the rubble yesterday where the comfort woman statue once stood.

Requesting anonymity, a female staffer of a nearby comfort room also told The STAR she saw the statue still intact Thursday night, and then coming to work yesterday seeing the statue has disappeared.

National Historical Commission of the Philippines chief Rene Escalante, who graced the unveiling of the statue near the intersection of Roxas Boulevard and Quirino Avenue in December last year, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The STAR earlier reported that the statue was commissioned by Tulay Foundation, a Filipino-Chinese organization headed by Manuel Chua.

In a statement yesterday, militant women’s group Gabriela condemned the removal of the statue as the Duterte government cozies up to the Japanese government for billions of pesos in loans.

The statue has roused the ire of the Japanese embassy in Manila, with the Manila city hall vowing to look into the matter.

The statue was built to commemorate atrocities during World War II, when 1,000 Filipino women were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops.

The issue of comfort women remains a thorny issue between the two countries. President Duterte earlier said the erection of the statue forms part of the country’s freedom of expression.

Flood control

Anna Mae Lamentillo, spokesperson of DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, said it was the city government that removed the comfort woman statue and two other statues in line with the DPWH’s flood control program.

“Three monuments were removed to give way for the improvement of Roxas Boulevard, Baywalk Area. Likewise, DPWH will be constructing a lateral drainage along Roxas Boulevard southbound near President Quirino Avenue,” she said.

Lamentillo added that the DPWH will install reinforced concrete pipes in the area, considered to have the lowest elevation along the boulevard and prone to flooding.

The design is for floodwaters to pass through the pipes into Manila Bay, she said.

The DPWH is also planning to build two more footbridges along Roxas Boulevard, one near the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the other near Quirino Avenue.

Erap: Bury the past

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, on the other hand, said the city government had nothing to do with the comfort woman statue’s removal.

“The city government has nothing to do with the removal of the comfort woman statue in Roxas Boulevard. What I know is that the site will be hit by a road-widening project of the national government, specifically the DPWH,” Estrada said in a telephone interview with The STAR.

The mayor said the group which had the comfort woman statue erected should bury the bad past of the Filipinos.

“We should not allow the bad past to dwell in our system. We should bury it along with the bad things that occured in the past,” Estrada said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Jose Rodel Clapano

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