Official calls on Aquino to bring up issue during Japanese emperor's visit
Relatives of former Filipino comfort women call for justice during a protest in Manila. (File photo by Vincent Go)
A church official has called on Philippine President Benigno Aquino to bring up the plight of Filipino comfort women when Japanese Emperor Akihito visits the country this week.
"[Aquino] must not let this opportunity pass," Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops' conference's public affairs office, said Jan. 25.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrive in Manila for a visit on Jan. 26. It will be the emperor's first visit to the Southeast Asian nation.
Father Secillano said the Philippine government must act "on behalf of our long-suffering comfort women" who were forced to work as sex slaves during the Japanese occupation.
More than a million Filipinos died during Japan's invasion of the Philippines during the Second World War.
Some 300 Filipino women claimed in the 1990s that they were forced to work in wartime brothels by the Japanese military.
Lila Pilipina, a women's rights group, estimates that less than 70 former comfort women are still alive.
"Although the suffering of comfort women may not be completely assuage by financial aid or other forms of assistance, it is in the interest of justice that the Japanese government come to the aid of these victims," said Father Secillano.
President Aquino has announced that he will ask Japan to provide additional assistance to surviving comfort women.
"At least [Aquino] is sending a signal that he is not heartless after all," said Father Secillano.
Lila Pilipina, however, berated Aquino for saying that the issue of apology and compensation by the Japanese government is already closed.
"We may be older than him but our memory is far clearer," said Rechilda Extremadura, executive director of Lila Pilipina.
"[We] never heard an official statement of apology nor received compensation from the Japanese government," she said.
"As far as we are concerned, it was all talk," said Extremadura, adding that she doubts whether Aquino will bring up the subject of apology and compensation with Emperor Akihito.
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