Tell Us What You Think

Figure of blind hate

Comfort Woman statue

Last month, a curious piece of street furniture appeared in Manila. No real fanfare – one day there was nothing there; the next it appeared. But although the making and the installation of it were carried out very quietly, the storm from it – now reverberating along diplomatic corridors – has placed the Philippine Government in a very awkward situation.

The installation is a life-size bronze statue of a young blind-folded female figure (photo). It represents a “comfort woman” – a sex-slave of the Imperial Japanese Army’s occupation of the Philippines between 1942 and 1945. The site it occupies is on the waterfront promenade of Roxas Boulevard – an iconic road, popular with tourists – and just 3 kilometres away from the Japanese Embassy.

The point is, the government had no knowledge of this statue until it appeared; the entire operation seems to have been conducted in secret. Knowledge of it seems to have been restricted to the artist who made it, the groups who funded and encouraged its making, the Mayor of Manila, former president Joseph Estrada, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCR) which apparently authorised the erection of it – though it’s not clear if any official permit was ever issued to site it in a public place.

What is clear is that this work was paid for by Chinese groups and individuals; that comfort-women advocacy group, Lila Pilipina (the League of Filipino Women) collaborated on the work – as possibly did feminist organisation, Gabriela – and that the NHCR fully supported the project.

With diplomatic understatement, the Japanese Foreign Ministry has informed the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs that it regards the statue and its prominent display in the heart of Manila as “extremely regrettable” – an assessment evidently shared by Philippine Foreign Secretary, Alan Peter Cayetano who, on Friday, announced that a government panel has been set up to look into the issue.

This follows – to our mind – a less-than-helpful statement by presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, earlier in the week which attempted to downplay the matter. Responding to concern expressed by Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications minister, Seiko Noda, Roque said this: “I don’t think this is really a bilateral issue because our ties with Japan are very strong. We have every reason to be optimistic that bilateral relations with Japan will become even more stronger”.

If Roque believes that, he’s mistaken. Last November, the erection of another comfort-women statue in San Francisco in the US resulted in the mayor of Osaka in Japan dissolving his city’s twinning agreement with SF. Manila has a similar sister-city arrangement with Japan’s second-largest city, Yokohama. Maybe the mayor there won’t be quite as sanguine about the statue controversy as Roque apparently is.

Moreover, in everything from trade to investment to development assistance, Japan is the Philippines’ biggest partner and Tokyo is a central player in Manila’s plans to rebuild the Philippines infrastructure. Japan is also the Philippines’ closest ally, while Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are also very close.

The fact is Japanese sensitivities over that period of history run deep and raw. And Japan feels that it’s being singled out to take the hit for all such atrocities committed in wartime by foreign armies. And certainly, that’s an argument it can make. In addition, there are sections of Chinese communities in most places which seek to perpetuate hatred of Japan.

That goes back way beyond the events of the Second World War and to the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the later Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) by which Imperial Japan expanded its territorial interests in northern China and Manchuria.

But let’s be quite clear. No-one condones the violence against civilians of either gender perpetrated by troops in times of war. It doesn’t matter whether those troops are Japanese, Russian, Ukranian, German, American, Dutch or British – or for that matter, Chinese. It’s ugly and wholly reprehensible and it should always be condemned. But, unfortunately it’s a fact of war.

Our question then for this weekend’s Your Forum is this: After more than 70 years, isn’t it time for a full reconciliation between the Philippines and Japan? In other words, does publically humiliating the Japanese nation over something that its present-day citizens had no part in, no memory of, help in any way to further peace and understanding? Forgiveness and moving on is never easy, but isn’t it time – particularly among those Chinese groups – to make some effort in that direction, rather than keep this issue alive and use it as a stick to beat Japan?

Here’s another horrendous episode from that same period of history that might be worth considering. In 1944 and 1945, Soviet Red Army troops moved into Germany as World War II was being brought to its conclusion. While they were there, however, they raped anything up to an estimated 2 million German girls and women – some 1.4 million in East Prussia, and the Central European regions of Pomerania and Silesia, alone.

In the capital, Berlin, they’re believed to have been responsible for 100,000 rapes – and repeated rapes; some women were violated 60 and 70 times. Abortion rates surged in the aftermath of this brutality. English military historian, Sir Anthony Beevor, who’s studied the Second World War extensively, describes this period as the “greatest period of mass rape in history”.

And yet, there are no street statues to those German girls and German women; no demands for reparation and apology from the Russian Federation which took over from the Soviet Union after it fell in 1985.

Lamentably, there are many accounts like these down through the ages – from pre-Biblical times to the Vikings to present-day wars in Africa and elsewhere. No-one can excuse them; no-one should – but there has to come a time in all such cases where history must be laid to rest.

Actually, if the Philippines wants to erect a statue to sex slaves and other forms of slavery, let it be to those of today. According to the 2016 World Slavery Index there are some 401,000 Filipinos living in modern-day slavery. That report claims that 47.67 Filipinos per 100 head of population are vulnerable to slavery.

And sex slavery, specifically, is well represented courtesy of a burgeoning sex-trade industry – taking in everything from massage parlours, girlie bars and brothels to the production of pornography and online live-streamed child sex offered to perverts from around the planet. Not to mention the trafficking in women for “domestic use” and “marriage”; nor the around-the-clock rape which goes on virtually unmentioned in the Philippines – one every 51 minutes in 2015.

Japan isn’t responsible for this wretched state of affairs which is happening right now under the nose of that statue on Roxas Boulevard. Blame for that lies much closer to home.

76 Comments

  • I think the people who erected that “street furniture”(to borrow your words) have only one thing in mind: to create a crack between the good and solid relationship of Japan and the Phils. In-depth study of worldwide women slavery puts the Phils as one of the forefronts however, have we seen solid action or even heard strong condemnation against the act of slavery from these suppose defenders of women?

  • I’m still waiting for statements of the related side/groups (Erap, NHCP, Gabriela, Lila Filipina) that caused that statue’s creation and installation. After that I can judge then comment.

    They better not include drama and appeal-to-emotion in their explanation.

    • City of Manila had no hand in statue’s installation:

      “…City Administrator Jojo Alcovendaz earlier said they did not have a hand in the “Comfort Woman” statue’s installation.

      ‘They regret that the statue was installed along Roxas Boulevard. I hope they will not take it against the city, ano? Kasi, Mike, we didn’t have a hand in the installation of the statue,’ he said , stressing that the NHCP should be the one to explain in the matter.”

      http://www.philstar.com/metro/2017/12/23/1770992/manila-exec-nhcp-okd-comfort-woman-statue

      ** Does this mean anyone in Manila can erect any statue in public spaces?

    • Harold Isaac Barrios there ought to be a harder law on use of public property. The proponents should have got, at the very least, a permit from the city engineer’s office. Hello, city of Manila, what are you doing?

    • …but then City of Manila admin says they provided space for statue:

      “The city goverment of Manila has nothing to do with the ‘comfort women’ statue, they [proponents]just asked for space, we just provided it to them,” Alcovendaz said in a telephone interview with The Manila Times.

      “The city’s main role here was to provide them with a place where they can unveil the statue,” he added.
      The NHCP, as the approving authority, allowed Tulay Foundation to install the statue.

      “We told them [Tulay Foundation] to get the necessary approval from the different national government agencies because this has international implications. But since the NHCP was involved, I thought the national government already approved it,” Alcovendaz said.

      http://www.manilatimes.net/manila-no-say-comfort-women-statue/373889/

    • Sally Vel The laws/rules exist but the issue is the implementation/enforcement. Our local officials too easily bow down or are subservient to national-level offices.

      “But since the NHCP was involved, I thought the national government already approved it,” — City of Manila admin

      There we see an effect of the old Filipino negative trait of “yumuko at tumango nalang” when infront of seniors/authorities.

  • Japan has long been paying for the atrocities of its army during the 2nd World War starting from the war’s end when it started granting financial and technical help to the FIlipino people until today and prospectively into the future. As I would ask my father who, when we were at odds, always reminded me that I can never repay him my life, “How much or for how long?” In hindsight, my father’s statement and my question were both unnecessary, ridiculous and infantile. And so is this hatred being perpetuated by Filipinas who weren’t even born yet from 1941-1945. Those abused “comfort women”, if in fact they were (I have reason to doubt because my mother, who was teaching during that period had a respectful attitude toward the Japanese soldiers she met),could be willing clients of profiteering lawyers or hate-filled women’s cause-oriented groups. Why have the latter not taken up the cause of Filipino guerillas who were not only tortured, but killed by the Japanese army? Why have they waved away the guilt of Filipino collaborators who helped with the food rations and steel components for bullets of the Japanese army? I agree. We should look closer to home for those who committed and continue to commit crimes against the Filipino people – sex purveyors, human traffickers, abusive masters, thieving politicians, merchants of blessedness and guaranteed seats on God’s right hand. We should erect a commemorative statue for each of their respective victims.

  • Matandang strategy ito and it’s still being used today especially within the community. Being a Chismosa/Tsismosa is the act of a third party to destroy the good relationship between Neighbors. Although the issue between the Phils and Japan about WW2 crimes are true, both countries are settling it in a proper forum. Then comes this Statue, a symbol by the Chismosa/Tsismosa faction, designed to instill friction between the two neighbors. This how these Chismosas do things and I think they deserve to be called as such.

  • Japan and the Philippines today are the closest of allies, supported by the personal rapport between their PM and our President. Both countries have managed to move on as ‘more than friends’ until the appearance of the said ‘furniture’. If indeed it’s creation was not officially condoned, then there was ill intention to create diplomatic troubles.
    Atrocities and abuses in wars are worldwide. In the Philippines, memories of Bu Dajo and Balangiga massacres by the Americans are kept muted for diplomacy. If this can be done for everyone to move on amicably, the comfort women issue must be similarly handled.
    What is troubling is the desire of some sectors to create and perpetuate hatred for their greedy ends.

  • They refuse healing!!! How can we move on if you refuse to leave the past behind? Even within families, we forgive to keep relationships healthy but these people have so much baggage or ill intentions that they continue to let people remember and live in the past with hatred snd bitterness!

  • DSTROY THAT STATUE, REGARDLESS OF WHO PAID FOR IT. JAPAN IS A VERY GOOD NEIGHBOR AND PARTNER NOW.
    I WILL HOLD ANYBODY LIABLE WHO HAD A PART IN ITS INSTALLATION. THAT MUST BE STRONGLY ENFORCED.

  • VERY, VERY POOR TASTE! SANA SI LAPU LAPU NA LANG ANG GINAWA NG GABRIELA, AS REPORTED, SA HALIP NA SYMBOL NA IYAN.

    GABRIELA HAS RUN OUT OF VALID ISSUES, IF THIS GROUP STILL HARP ON THIS SUBJECT. LET US ALL MOVE ON!!

    IT DOES A DISSERVICE TO ALL OUR DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS WITH JAPAN, AND THE HELP JAPAN IS EXTENDING HERE.

  • Time to move on. Time to untangle ourselves after more than three decades of gradual self-strangulation. Better not blunder again or take notice of barriers along the way as it might lead us again to a path of nowhere. The door is now open for growth,unity, peace, development and economic success for our country under the new administration. This is the last remaining chance we have to effect change in our country, this is not the time for us to squander it.

  • Unahin ang kapakanan ng buong bansa! When people or organizations cause disservice to this country, there must be an accountability! Otherwise, it’s an abuse of freedom that tramples upon the rights of the majority and the welfare of the nation as a whole! I appeal to the national government to put the interest of the nation first and transfer the said monument to an appropriate place. Erecting the monument is a political move that must be dealt with politically!

  • The people behind this has only one intention… to destroy our country’s relationship with Japan…for Japan to withdraw from us . Anong klaseng mamamayan kayo? Deep rooted na yata ang selfishness ninyo. You will do everything to put DU30 admin down. How can we as a nation progress? Lord make the Philippines you next Israel. Send your son, Jesus to SAVE us from chaos and destabilization created by the oppositions and selfish people. Send your Holy Spirit to renew the face of the Philippine spciety. Make us a group of patriotic, nationalistic, law abiding citizens. Let us learn to cooperate our government for the betterment of our country… Amen

  • If anything covert such as the methods it was erected would lead a logical person to speculate that some covert organizations must have done it for the purpose of driving a wedge between our country’s strong ties with Japan. The timing is highly apparent considering the fizzle being felt from the anti-government forces bent on reviving the First Quarter Storm in 1970.

    We can expect more similar sinister operations early this year.

  • we should move on! what happened years and years ago should be a thing of the past, not tobe forgotten but to to be a lesson! nagsorry na ang Japan and they have been helping us since time immemorial, dahil siguro narealize na nila , mali ang ginawa nila. can we put this all behind and move on. isa ata sa trait nating mga pilipino ang MAPAGTANIM, that is why we cant move on. sino ba ang walang pagkakamaling ginawa? lahat tayo may maling nagagawa. ilang beses na sila humingi ng tawad, maybe it is time to really MOVE ON!

  • As a rule, memorials and statues are erected to remember people and events. The comfort women were brutalized and denied justice for decades after the war. They became an inconvenient reminder that Japan (now an important donor and economic partner) invaded and brutalized not just these women but the entire country. Germany has long apologized and faced its Nazi past. The same cannot be said of the Japanese who still deny the women justice but deny events like the Bataan Death March took place and called it propaganda. The statue is a sad reminder of how people can do evil things to other people. It should remind us that our people suffered then and continue to suffer now. It should remind us to continue to work for peace and justice long after the last of these women have passed on. If it bothers the Japanese, then good. It should. It should remind everybody that all the money in the world cannot undo an injustice. Especially an injustice one refuses to recognize as one. Let the statue stand. And if it bothers people, if it encourages people to right a wrong then some degree of justice will have been granted to the women the statue represents.

  • Mga yellowtards uli ang gumawa niyan. Anything basta makasira sa image yellowtards ang me gawa. So, i trace ang me pakana nyan at kung walang approval sa city government, hulihin at ikulong ng 500 years. At putulan ng kamay.

  • Since the location has not been approved by Gov. then take it down–at this point of Global change, peace between nations is utmost. No public location be approved by Gov. Put it on Eraps front lawn!

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