MANILA - The Makabayan bloc in the lower house is asking President Aquino to take up the cudgels for the call of Filipino comfort women in World War 2 for an apology from the Japanese government.
This, as Emepror Akihito embarks on a visit to the Philippines.
READ: Filipino 'comfort women' want plight raised with Japanese emperor
In a statement, Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate strongly urged President Aquino to demand an apology from visiting Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko for Japan's forcible systematic use of Filipinas as sex slaves or comfort women during World War II.
"The visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko is prime time for the Philippine government to finally put to a resolution to war crimes committed by Japan to the Philippines, particularly on the comfort women issue. President Aquino must step up and demand apology and reparations for these war crimes," said Rep. Colmenares, also a Makabayan senatorial candidate.
The two lawmakers, both human rights lawyers, also demanded from the Japanese Diet a full acknowledgement of its wartime policy of sexual slavery committed by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan, and, a formal official apology from the said acts.
"Foremost, Japan must admit that the women and girls forced into sexual slavery was a wrong committed by Imperial Japan, thus, a state responsibility and not only of some erring soldiers. They must admit that it was Japan's war-time policy to enslave women and girls for sex, and they must apologize for this heinous crime," Rep. Colmenares added.
At the height of World War II, Filipinas and other Asian women were documented to have been placed by Japanese forces in concentration camps or brutalized in their communities.
"Surviving comfort women are in their 80s, and only about 70 of the estimated 1,000 Filipinas forced into sex labor during the Second World War are still alive. We hope that in their lifetime they will be afforded a formal apology and indemnification for the atrocities done to them," Rep. Colmenares said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Zarate said that while Akihito's visit is "mainly about the revolving dynamics of military and economic ties in the Asia Pacific in relation to the growing aggressiveness of China, we call on Pres. Aquino to seriously place in the agenda the protracted issue of Filipina comfort women."
"Our long suffering lolas should not be ignored for the sake of political expediency," Rep. Zarate added.
"A formal apology and indemnification is a matter of justice for our comfort women, and, for the Filipinos, as well. There can never be any closure on this issue for as long as there is no justice and accountability for the war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Forces," Rep. Zarate ended.
Gabriela Women's Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan today called on colleagues anew to immediately act on House Resolution 2618 and come up with policy recommendations on how the Philippine government can support the Filipino comfort women's appeals for acknowledgement, apology and reparations from the Japanese government.
Ilagan reiterated that the country's security concerns against China's incursions into Philippine territory should not get in the way of the comfort women's demands for justice.
READ: Filipino 'comfort women' fear China sea dispute blocks justice from Japan
"The comfort women's call for justice is being set aside as a bargaining chip in exchange of military support from Japan. While we have yet to attain justice for Filipino comfort women sexually abused during the Japanese occupation, the Aquino government is now set to formalize and fully implement a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan, an agreement that could spawn another generation of Filipino comfort women," said Ilagan.
"Inviting foreign military intervention is like inviting abuse. This has been the historical experience of Filipino women, from the comfort women, to the prostitution hubs located right at the gates of military bases then and now. We do not want another generation of Filipino comfort women, another Nicole or another Jennifer."
On the other hand, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat has invited Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to Ifugao to complete the healing of the relationship between the Philippines and Japan, former combatants during World War II.
Baguilat stressed that Ifugao figured prominently during the last world war, with remains of Japanese soldiers still being found today, thus a visit by the Japanese royals would go a long way in promoting healing and goodwill between the two nations.
It was in the town of Kiangan where on Sept. 2, 1945, Tomoyuki Yamashita, Supreme Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army, surrendered to Filipino and American forces, thus marking the end of World War II.
The Kiangan War Memorial Shrine was erected in 1974 to mark the occasion of the surrender of Yamashita, with his command staff, at the Home Economics building of the Kiangan Central School. From Ifugao, he was brought the next day to Camp John Hay in Baguio City where he officially signed the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces to the Philippines.
September 2 is commemorated in Ifugao every year as Victory Day and also became known as the Anniversary of the End of World War II in the Philippines.
Baguilat said that with the 60th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Japan, it would be fitting for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to bring their message of peace to Ifugao, where the last battles of World War II were waged.
"We would like them to come and see where war ended, and promote healing and goodwill between our two nations. They would also be pleased to see that the former enemies are now firm partners in development," said Baguilat.
He shared that significant Overseas Development Assistance funds have gone to Ifugao.
Among the major projects are a maternal health improvement program, mini-hydro infrastructure deals, and a multi-million-peso reforestation project.
"The emperor will see that the funds from the Japanese people are being used well and have had a positive impact on the province," said Baguilat.
The Japanese royals arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday afternoon as part of their peace mission in Asia. The visit marks the first time that a Japanese emperor and empress visit the Philippines.
During their visit, the Japanese royals are scheduled to meet with beneficiaries of Japanese official development assistance as well as visit World War II memorial sites. Baguilat hopes that even at the last minute, the Japanese royals would find the time and see the need to travel to Ifugao.