Philippines to revisit comfort women case

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government may revisit its earlier position that comfort women should not be given reparations for the rape they suffered at the hands of Japanese soldiers during World War II.

In a chance interview yesterday, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the department will talk to Congress for the passage of a law that will recognize the plight of wartime sex slavery victims and provide them assistance.

When asked if the DOJ will come up with a legal opinion to reverse the government’s position that war reparations have been paid due to a 1956 treaty with Japan, Remulla said the department will form a “study group” to be led by Undersecretary Raul Vasquez and “have a comprehensive study on the policy that we have to adopt regarding the comfort women issue so we can deal with it with finality.”

Remulla said he believes the comfort women should receive restitution from the government. He declined to comment on whether the reparations should come from Filipino taxpayers or the Japanese government.

Remulla said it is part of the country’s “international obligations” to heed the ruling of the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

CEDAW studied a plea filed by the “Malaya Lolas” in 2016 and found that the government violated the rights of comfort women by failing to redress the continued discrimination and suffering they endured.

The counsels for the lolas – under the Center for International Law Manila and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights – said the reparations agreement was made decades before the lolas came out in the 1990s and before the public knew about the system of sexual slavery.

The Malaya Lolas are women who were raped by Japanese soldiers in the “Bahay na Pula” in San Ildefonso, Bulacan during World War II. Fewer than 30 members are still alive.

Besides ensuring that the lolas get help and an apology, the UN committee urged the Philippine government to use the “Red House” as a memorial “to honor (the lolas’) struggle for justice.”

Lawyer Romel Bagares, who represents the Malaya Lolas, said the UN ruling “is the first pronouncement by an international body that they are entitled to state protection and espousal of their claims over war crimes they suffered during the Japanese occupation.”

“The CEDAW ruling... is distinct from Japan’s responsibility over the same war crimes – such as rape and torture,” he added. – Elizabeth Marcelo


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