MANILA- Women's group Gabriela on Thursday sought a legislative inquiry into the removal of the statue depicting a comfort woman along Roxas Boulevard.
The group filed House Resolution 1859 resolution calling the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation.
The Department of Public Works and Highways removed the statue last April 27 purportedly to make way for a drainage improvement project.
"Such removal of the statue violates existing laws and blackens the memory of abused comfort women who died without even getting a formal apology from the Japanese government for the historical injustice which they suffered," Gabriela said.
Estelita Dy, one of the few surviving comfort women in the Philippines, also lamented the removal of the statue.
"Sa pagtanggal ng rebulto sa Roxas Blvd., siyempre nalulungkot kami dahil yan ang simbolo ng comfort woman. Ngayon, pinatatanggal nila... para hindi na malalaman sa buong daigdig na dito sa Pilipinas may comfort woman," she said.
(I am saddened by the removal of the statue in Roxas Blvd. Now that they have removed it, the world will no longer know that there were comfort women here in the Philippines.)
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmy de Jesus said they are after state recognition of the plight of the comfort women.
“We will never allow our dignity and our collective quest for justice to be traded merely for Japanese loans and investments. We will never let this incident be swept under the rug,” she said.
The women's group also noted that the comfort woman statue bears the official marker, indicating that any modification or destruction of it shall be illegal under Presidential Decree 1505.
President Rodrigo Duterte backed the statue's removal and said it can be placed in a private property so as not to insult Japan, stressing that the issue of comfort women was long over.
An estimated 1,000 Filipino women served as comfort women during the 1941-1945 Japanese occupation.
The 2-meter-high bronze statue was unveiled by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines last Dec. 8, following the erection of similar statues in South Korea, China, and Australia.
Japan previously voiced its displeasure over the statue, saying "it's regrettable for this kind of statue to suddenly appear."
In 2016, Gabriela filed House Resolution 213 urging the Philippine government to demand a formal apology from Japan for the sexual slavery of thousands of Filipino women by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.