MANILA, Jan 6, 2016:
A group of elderly Filipino women raped by Japanese troops during World War Two called for compensation from Japan on Wednesday, following Tokyo’s pledge of US$8.3 million (RM36.5 million) for South Korean women forced into Japanese military-run brothels during the war.
The women’s lawyers said they were also exploring the possibility of filing cases with United Nations bodies and holding Philippine President Benigno Aquino liable for allegedly failing to support the case of the women against Japan.
Isabelita Vinuya, the 84-year-old president of Malaya Lolas — a group of Filipino women abducted and raped by Japanese troops in a house in their village — urged the Philippine government to support their demand for justice from Japan.
“We have appealed more than once or twice to our government to help us, support us before Japan so that we can be given justice for the sufferings we went through during World War Two,” Vinuya said at a news conference, adding that many of the women had already died without seeing justice.
Historians said tens of thousands of women from around Asia were sent to front-line military brothels to provide sex to Japanese soldiers.
Japan and South Korea announced last week that they had settled their decades-long standoff over wartime sex slaves. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologised and agreed to contribute US$8.3 million for a foundation to help support the victims.
“Is there a difference in the rape of a South Korean and a Filipino woman?” Harry Roque, the Filipino victims’ lawyer, said at the news conference.
“The answer is there should be none, because rape is a crime against women and is prohibited by international humanitarian law and is recognised as an international crime.”
He noted that South Korea’s Supreme Court had ordered the government to fight for the rights of the Korean victims, while the Philippines’ top court dismissed in 2010 a case filed by Vinuya and 70 other women urging the court to compel the government to press their claims against Japan. The Philippine court also denied an appeal filed by the women.
Vinuya said she was 13 when the Japanese troops raped the women in her village of Mapaniqui in Pampanga province, around 60km north of Manila.
The troops also razed homes and killed men in the village. Three other women at Wednesday’s news conference said they were teenagers when they were raped during the siege.
Vinuya said only 32 Filipino wartime sex slaves are alive today, down from around 90 who have come forward about their ordeal since 1992.