Editorial & Opinion

A conspicuous silence

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All was rosy with the arrival of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his top-level meeting with President Aquino last week.

The two leaders talked about peace and prosperity in the region. Malacañang characterized Japan as one of its two strategic partners (the other one being the United States). Abe identified four initiatives in relations between Japan and the Philippines: to foster together vibrant economies, promote cooperation in maritime affairs, strengthen assistance to the Mindanao peace process and promote people-to-people exchanges.

The centerpiece of the visit was the mutual commitment to stand together against China, which claims territories in the Philippines and in Japan.

Indeed the two nations are doing very well in moving forward after being bitter enemies 70 years ago during World War II.

Unfortunately, what happened —what did not happen would be more accurate—during Abe’s visit last week was consistent with the Philippine government’s weak and inconsistent stance on the issue of comfort women since the first such victims recounted their ordeal more than 20 years ago.

Palace officials paid no heed to a handful of elderly women who had gathered near Malacanang demanding justice for what they experienced as sex slaves of Japanese soldiers during the war.

In May of this year, the mayor of Osaka said wartime sex slaves performed a necessary role for Japanese soldiers—provide release for troops perennially confronted with the horrors of war and the threat of death.

Estimates put the number of slaves at 200,000, coming from the Philippines, Korea and China.

The Japanese government has not quite done enough to acknowledge the damage that the slave system has done on the lives of thousands of women, many of whom are now dead, or ill, or weakened by old age.

In fact, some leaders dared say the women were never coerced to provide “release” to the soldiers.

The Philippine government has not been able to stand up for our comfort women, seeing the issue as uncomfortable and inconvenient to bring up during talks such as the one that transpired between Mr. Aquino and Mr. Abe. Even the Supreme Court ruled that the government was under no international obligation to espouse the claims of the comfort women. This decision gained prominence, not for its implications on the women but for the plagiarism allegations against the justice who penned it.

We did not have any reason to believe President Aquino would act differently, because he did not even react to the Osaka mayor’s statement. That Mr. Abe had come and gone without the touchy issues being mentioned was no surprise at all. It appears the issue will continue to be swept under the rug until there are no longer any comfort women crying out for justice. (Manila Standard)

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