Mapaniqui, PAMPANGA- The members of Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers) urged the Philippine government to immediately act on the recent decision released by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) regarding the sexual abuse they suffered in the hands of Japanese soldiers during World War II.
“Ang masasabi ko sa ating presidente, sana, kung mangyayari kami, nananawagan kaming mga biktima ng karahasan, eh sana tulungan kami para lumabas na ‘yang resolution na ‘yan,” Malaya Lolas president Maria Lalu Quilantang told ABS-CBN News Sunday.
(What I can tell our president, if it will happen, I am asking him to help us victims of violence, I hope he helps us with the resolution.)
Quilantang, who is already 87 years old, said she hopes the government gives them the aid they have been asking for while they are still alive.
“Para naman guminhawa kami. Matanda na kami. Kung hindi na namin makakain, wala nang halaga. Hangga’t sana nakakalasa pa kami, ibig namin, kung tutulungan kami, tulungan na kami,” she added.
(So that we can live better lives. We are already old. If we cannot eat it anymore, then it will be useless. Hopefully as long as we can still taste it, if they will help us, they should help us soon.)
This is also the sentiment of 80-year-old Candelaria Soliman, also a member of Malaya Lolas.
“Ang panawagan kay Presidente Marcos, ipatupad na ang UN resolution, ‘yun ang inaasam namin,” she said, referring to the UN CEDAW’s call on the Philippine government to provide sexual abuse survivors full reparation.
(We call on President Marcos to act on the UN resolution.)
“Kaya Bongbong Marcos, presidente, gawin ho ninyo ang makakaya ninyo sa aming Malaya Lolas. Matatanda na po kami. Kami ay sana po ay inyong tulungan, dahil kami po ay matatanda na rin,” Pilar Galang, the group’s vice president, also said.
(President Bongbong Marcos, I hope you do what you can for the Malaya Lolas. We are already old. I hope you can help us because we are already old.)
The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) earlier 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.
It also said it will study the decision and submit a response within six months.
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.