Gov't to 'study, submit' reply on UN panel's views on comfort women issue


Posted at Mar 11 2023 09:53 AM

Filipino 'comfort women' attend a commemoration at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran on September 17, 2022. 📷: George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Filipino "comfort women" attend a commemoration at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran on September 17, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The government will "study and submit a written response" to the United Nations (UN) panel that found the Philippines in violation of its obligation to Filipino women who suffered sexual abuse from Japanese soldiers during World War II, it said Friday.


The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said the government has taken note of the views of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and reiterates it "recognizes the suffering of female victims of atrocious violations" during the war.

"We will study the Views of the Committee and submit a written response to the Committee within the time frame of six months," the PCO said.

The finding by the CEDAW, which stemmed from a complaint of the Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers) comfort women group, was released during the celebration of International Women's Day on Wednesday (Geneva time).

"The committee observed that the Philippine Commission on Women had not addressed the institutionalized system of wartime sexual slavery, its consequences for victims and survivors, or their protection needs," the panel said.

"In contrast, Philippine war veterans, who are mostly men, are entitled to special and esteemed treatment from the Government, such as educational benefits, health-care benefits, old age, disability and death pensions," it added.

"Their repeated efforts, however, were dismissed by the authorities, with their last action turned down by the Supreme Court in 2014. The Philippines’ government has always maintained that it is not in a position to claim compensation from Japan after ratifying the Treaty of Peace with Japan in 1956," the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

The OHCHR was referring to the Reparations Agreement, wherein the Philippines agreed to receive some $550 million from Japan in services and goods as compensation for Filipino victims of World War II.

In its statement, the PCO noted that "some reparations have been made and the Supreme Court has adjudicated on the matter."

But it added that the government "remains fully committed to women's rights pursuant to its international human rights obligations and national laws and jurisprudence."

The UN committee called on Manila to provide the sexual abuse survivors full reparation, "including material compensation and an official apology for the continuing discrimination."

The complaint examined by CEDAW was filed by victim Natalia Alonzo and 23 other sexual survivors.

It stated that on Nov. 23, 1944, they were forcibly taken to the infamous "Bahay na Pula" (Red House), which was the Japanese military's headquarters in San Ildefonso, Pampanga.

Organized in 1997, the Malaya Lolas had petitioned the Supreme Court to hold officials from the executive branch liable for not espousing their claims, but its pleas were junked in 2010 and again in 2014.

The group -- along with another comfort women organization, Lila Pilipina -- still refuses to accept as official the statements of apology issued by several Japanese officials in the past, including former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's letter in 2001.

Some of their members have also rejected payments made through the Asian Women’s Fund in the mid-1990s.

The previous president of the Malaya Lolas, Isabelita Vinuya, died in 2021 at the age of 90. She passed away on the same day the Japanese raided Mapaniqui, her hometown, 77 years ago.

Virginia Suarez, the lawyer of Malaya Lolas, said in 2021 that only 21 members of the group remain alive.


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