The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday appealed to the government to provide full indemnification and and seek apology from the Japanese government for the suffering inflicted by Japanese soldiers on Filipinas who were made as sex slaves, also called “comfort women,” during World War II.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros filed a resolution urging the government to ensure “just and meaningful reparations to Filipino comfort women and their families.”
The CHR made the appeal in light of the recent remarks by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that the Philippines violated the rights of victims of sexual slavery committed by the Japanese Army during the war.
“CHR urges the government of the Philippines to seriously consider and act on the recommendations of the Committee, particularly on providing the victims ‘full reparation, including recognition and redress, an official apology, and material and moral damages’ proportionate to the physical, psychological, and material damage suffered by them and the gravity of the violation of their rights experienced,” the CHR said in a statement.
The agency pointed out that the 1987 Constitution prohibits the use of torture, force, violence, threat, and intimidation or any other means which vitiate free will; and mandates the compensation and rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar practices and their families.
The CHR also reminded that the Philippines is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which mandates the right to remedy and reparations for violations of human rights.
“To a larger, nobler end, providing reparations to Filipina ‘comfort women’ pursues transitional justice, where large-scale and systematic human rights violations are addressed so that the nation and its people can move towards peace and reconciliation,” the Commission added.
It also expressed willingness to assist the government in crafting a policy and the supporting mechanism for proposed reparation for the “comfort women.”
The CHR recommended that the government seek an apology from the Japanese government and restore the comfort women statue that once stood on Roxas Blvd. in honor of the stories and struggles of these “comfort women” and as a reminder of the abhorrence to the violence of war.
The statue was removed in 2019, with then-President Rodrigo Duterte saying that it was taken out so as not to “insult” the Japanese government.
Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution No. 539 in the wake of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women ruling that the Philippine government failed to fulfill its treaty obligations under the CEDAW when it did not seek redress for comfort women, the wartime victims of sexual violence perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Army.
“Reparations to victim-survivors are long past due. Many of them have already passed away and the few who remain are in their twilight years, making it all the more critical for the Philippine government to take immediate measures that can tangibly support these women and
their families,” Hontiveros said.
The senator, who has authored laws against sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation, added that “we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of these women who have suffered and have borne this pain for decades.”
The non-profit organization Malaya Lolas, which consists of Filipino survivors of sex slavery, asserted to the UN Committee that the failure of the Philippine government to press the Japanese government for reparations resulted in continuing discrimination.
The complainants also alleged that the failure of the government to take up their cause is tantamount to a breach of its treaty obligations to “adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to prohibit all discrimination against women, and protect women’s rights on an equal basis with men.”
“I laud the UN Committee for recognizing that sexual violence againstwomen and girls during war is indeed a violation of women’s rights,” she said.
The experiences of the comfort women, she said, have caused them undue shame and trauma that they have had to live through most of their lives.
She said the least our government can do is help them and their families as they carry on in their healing.
She said the victim-survivors were repeatedly subjected to rape, torture, and inhumane detention conditions during World War II.
“As we celebrate Women’s Month, may the bravery of the survivors inspire more women to push back against abuse in all its forms. I proudly stand with these women who had the courage to share their stories, stand up for their rights, and demand justice. Their fight is our fight, too,” Hontiveros added.