by Harry Roque and Romel Regalado Bagares, counsel for the Malaya Lolas
Why is Japan settling the Comfort Women issue only with South Korea and not with the Philippines or any other country whose citizens fell victim to the rapacious Japanese Imperial Army?
Are Filipinas raped and ravaged by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II any less human than their South Korean counterparts?
And what is our government doing about the case of the Filipino Comfort Women whose claims against Japan have remained pending?
We raise these questions in the wake of recent reports that the Japanese and South Korean governments have finally reached an agreement to settle the 70-year old issue of the South Korean comfort women – or, in the case of the latter, girls and women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers from the 1930s until the end of World War WII.
According to the agreement the Japanese government will offer a one-time final apology and to pay 1 billion yen ($8.3m) to provide care for victims through a foundation.
While we would like to see details of this agreement show an official acknowledgment of responsibility by Japan – because precisely, the previous apologies issued by Japan do not appear to be on behalf of the State but were cast as if there was no official policy implemented to forcefully conscript Asian women as sex slaves – news of this agreement only makes the insult against Filipinas who suffered the same fate sharper and deeper.
It also underlines the Aquino government’s continuing refusal to abide by its obligation under international law to provide an effective remedy against its own citizens who had been brutalized by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
The Filipino Comfort Women are dying one by one. Each day that they are ignored by their own government, any hope of official acknowledgment and reparations grows dimmer as the shadows of old age and mortality cast a dark pall on their faces.
They should not be used as pawns by states in the geopolitical controversies of the day, as we fear is happening in regard to the Filipino comfort women. What we mean is that victims of horrendous human rights violations should not be used by our government as a leverage in its talk with Japan for support against China over the West Philippine Sea controversy.
Today, we hear of reports of more official Japanese government aid to the Philippines in the form of patrol boats to the Philippine Coast Guard and soft loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars for various infrastructure projects.
But these official aid initiatives will not erase Japanese official responsibility over the sexual slavery its own soldiers have subjected many Filipinas when they invaded the Philippines 70 years ago.
Background to the Malaya Lolas case
In 2004, the Center for International Law (Centerlaw) filed a petition in behalf of 70 plus members of the Malaya Lolas group, who survived the Mapanique, Tarlac siege by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. In the petition, the Malaya Lolas charged that they were victims of systematic rape and sexual slavery committed by the Japanese, and they asked the High Court to compel the Philippine government to espouse their claims against Japan. On April 28, 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court dismissed the petition.
The Supreme Court’s decision sparked a massive controversy when significant portions of it were discovered to have been lifted from various sources without proper attribution. In addition to the plagiarism, it appears that these stolen passages were also twisted to support the court’s erroneous conclusion that the Filipina comfort women of World War II have no further legal remedies.
A Motion for Reconsideration and a Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration were subsequently filed by the Centerlaw on behalf of the Malaya Lolas highlighting the alleged plagiarism and twisting of sources. The Malaya Lolas, in their Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration said the High Court’s ruling, penned by Justice Mariano Del Castillo, “made it appear that these sources support the assailed judgment’s arguments for dismissing instant petition when, in truth, the plagiarized sources even make a strong case for the petition’s claims.”
On March 27, 2013, Centerlaw filed a manifestation asking the Supreme Court (SC) to consider a 2011 decision by the Constitutional Court of Korea on the issue of Korean Comfort Women in resolving the controversial Malaya Lolas case. This was noted by the Court in a resolution issued on April 11, 2013.
Centerlaw also filed a Motion for Leave to File Petition for Intervention on behalf of the European Commission on Human Rights (ECCHR). The Motion was denied by the Supreme Court stating that intervention can no longer be had once the case has been submitted for resolution.
In August 5, 2014, the Supreme Court denied the Motion for Reconsideration and Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration filed by Centerlaw on behalf of the Malaya Lolas.