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Marker in honor of Filipino 'comfort women' unveiled

Plaque in Manila church compound aims to serve as a reminder of rights abuses committed by Japan during WWII

Marker in honor of Filipino 'comfort women' unveiled

Surviving Filipino comfort women lead the unveiling of a marker at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Manila's Baclaran district on Aug. 25. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Published: August 26, 2019 06:00 AM GMT

Updated: August 26, 2019 06:07 AM GMT

A women’s rights group unveiled a marker in memory of victims of violence and sexual slavery during World War II inside a church compound in Manila on Aug. 25.

The group, Flowers for Lolas Campaign, said the marker "symbolizes our collective action to remember, learn, respect, and honor a past that should never be forgotten."

Redemptorist priest Teodulo Holgado said it is "righteous and proper to remember" the Filipinos who suffered during the war "especially the thousands of comfort women who still await justice."

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"Comfort women" is the term used for women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army in occupied territories during World War II.

The term is a translation of a Japanese word meaning "prostitute."

In 1993, Japan issued an apology, which most in occupied countries such as the Philippines and Korea say did not go far enough.

Father Holgado said the marker, which was placed inside the compound of the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran district, aims to remind the youth of their duty to the country.

A statue depicting a blindfolded "comfort woman" was supposed to be installed beside the marker last week but it was reported missing.

Philippine authorities removed the statue from a boulevard by the scenic Manila Bay in April 2017 supposedly to pave the way for a drainage project.

Sharon Cabusao Silva, coordinator of a group of survivors of war atrocities, said the missing statue is "part of an attempt to erase the truth and the narratives” about Filipino comfort women.

On Dec. 30, 2018, a separate statue of a "comfort woman" installed in the Mary Mother of Mercy compound in Laguna province was removed after the Japanese embassy expressed “disappointment.”

"The fight for remembering the comfort women has become the fight for freedom of expression," said Silva.

"Japan does not have the right to hinder us from memorializing the dark era of our history when Japanese soldiers disrespected, raped, and murdered our women," she said.

Narcisa Claveria, an 89-year-old survivor of the war said many of the comfort women have already died "yet there is still no justice."

"Help us find the missing statue. Let us learn from the past because we do not want you to experience what we have gone through," she said.

Mark Saludes contributed to this report.

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