MANILA - The "comfort woman" statue removed last month from Roxas Boulevard in Manila may no longer be erected back on its site, a local official said Wednesday.
“Sabi ng DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) baka hindi ho natin maibalik doon sa lugar na 'yun kasi maglalagay na ng 2 footbridges dito sa portion na 'yan ng Roxas Boulevard,” Manila City Administrator Erickson Jojo Alcovendaz told reporters.
(The DPWH said we may no longer be able to return it to the area because 2 footbridges will be built on that portion of Roxas Boulevard.)
The statue was removed to give way to a drainage improvement project, the DPWH earlier said, earning the ire of women's rights group Gabriela, which condemned the move as a "foul insult" on Filipino comfort women who were forced to work in wartime brothels during the Japanese occupation.
President Rodrigo Duterte had defended the structure's removal, saying it could be placed on private property so as not to insult Japan, which has provided funds to help comfort women.
Given Duterte's statement, Alcovendaz said: "Makikita mo parang 'di na siya puwede mailagay sa pampublikong lugar. Kung ibabalik ho 'yan, marahil sa privately owned land.”
(You can see that it seems it may no longer be allowed to be put back on public property. If it is erected again, it will probably be on privately owned land.)
The statue was damaged during the removal and is temporarily with its sculptor for repairs, he said.
The statue, he said, is a property of the city government of Manila since it was donated by the Tulay Foundation.
Alcovendaz said the statue was not secretly removed.
"'Di po ito tinago sa tao... Tinanggal ng gabi para maiwasan ang pagsisikip ng daloy [ng] trapiko," he said.
(It was not kept secret from the public. It was removed during the night to avoid causing heavy traffic.)
The official said 3 other markers in the area were also affected by the drainage.
Tulay Foundation's Teresita Ang See appealed for the return of the statue.
She said she also wants formal government recognition of comfort women as part of national history by including a discussion on them in textbooks.
She also urged the government to seek a formal apology from Japan, mount an event recognizing the last living comfort women, and erect more public structures in their honor.
See appealed to the government to resist Japanese pressure to remove the statue.
“Sinasabi kasi economic pressure... Wala namang ibang bansa na nag-cave in,” she said.
(It was said that there's economic pressure. No other country has caved in.)
Japan is among the country's important trading partners.
“They (Japanese) have to ask that of us kasi ayaw nilang masiraan but it's up to us not to give in to the pressure and they will respect us more for that. In fact, napakalaking interference ito, internal affairs of the government,” she added.
(The Japanese have to ask us to remove the statue because they do not want to lose face, but it's up to us not to give in to the pressure and they will respect us more for that. In fact, this is such a grave act of interference in the internal affairs of the government.)
Gabriela party-list is expected to file a resolution on Thursday seeking a congressional probe into the removal of the statue, said Sharon Silva, incoming executive director of the group Lila Filipina.