Over 400 Memorials to Japanese Soldiers in the Philippines – Protesting the shameful act of the Japanese Government, forcing the removal of a single memorial to the “comfort women”!!

On December 8 last year, a statue to remember the women forced to become “comfort women” for the Japanese imperial army was erected in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. This was implemented by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the government agency involved in the establishment of historical memorials, with official approval. On the base of the statue a message in the Tagalog language reads, “This monument is in honor of Filipino women who were victims of abuse during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945). A long time has passed before they testified and revealed what they went through."

Why make such a memorial?
The reason for this, is to prevent any such thing to happen in the future.

The survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery, the “comfort women”, have long appealed for the realization of a peaceful world, where no one else will ever suffer as they have. Memorials to the “comfort women” which are spreading around the world today are honoring their appeal, as well as expressing the commitment and sincere hope to eliminate sexual violence under conflict or around military bases, which is continuing around the world today.

Since immediately after it was erected, the Japanese Government has opposed this statue, stating that “it does not fit the Japanese Government's position,” and “expresses regret” that it was built. Upon her visit to the Philippines in January this year, Ms Seiko Noda, Minister for Internal Affairs and Women's Empowerment, also expressed that it was “extremely unfortunate”, and called for discussion between the Japanese and Filipino Government on this issue.

However, the Japanese Government should finally realise such expressions of a position only make resolution of the military sexual slavery issue even more distant; injure the survivors once again, and become the grounds for drawing international criticism. While on the one hand making statements referring to apologies or regret, Japan is at the same time trying to erase its history of aggression, and unconcerned about how ugly this effort is, is putting pressure on the victimized countries. These acts deliberately demonstrate that this “regret” is merely lip service.

It is indeed shameless to make a statement that “it does not fit with the Japanese Government's position” in regards to a memorial erected within the Philippines, commemorating the victims of its own country. At the same time, the Japanese Government has built many memorials to Japanese soldiers killed in the Philippines, such as at Lake Caliraya in Laguna.

Furthermore, there are over 400 memorials to Japanese soldiers built by Japanese people throughout the Philippines. According to the homepage of the Philippine War Memorial Preservation Association, “when Japanese survivors and bereaved families of soldiers wanted to construct memorials to Japanese soldiers who died during the war, despite the fact that there were more than 1.2 million Filipino people killed in the war, the Filipino people readily cooperated with the erection of memorials.”

At the same time as constructing memorials to Japanese soldiers in a country it once invaded, Japan is blatantly obstructing the erection of a memorial to women who were victimized by sexual violence at the hands of the Japanese imperial army. Not only this, but as this opposition is in the name of “not fitting with the Japanese Government's position,” we as Japanese citizens feel extremely sorry. It is difficult for us to even look Filipino people in the eye considering this. Such a lacking in common sense, shameless and impudent attitude will not escape international criticism.

On April 27, the memorial was removed. Upon confirmation of this removal at the site, the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines complacently stated that “(the removal) was the decision and response of the Filipino government side,” while also commenting that “we repeatedly conveyed to the Filipino Government the position of the Japanese Government that the statue's erection was regrettable, and that there should not be anything to negatively impact bilateral relations between the two countries.”

This act is so incredibly shameful.

We protest against the response of the Japanese Government, with great anger. We also call for the Japanese Government to cease any intervention or obstruction of memorials commemorating the “comfort women,” women victimized by the Japanese imperial army, and aiming to prevent any such further victimization – acts which bring disgrace to Japan in the eyes of the world.

We call on the Philippines Government not to give in to the unreasonable demands of the current Japanese Government and damage the honor and dignity of Filipina women. The Philippines should re-erect the memorial to the Filipina victims, and demonstrate its stance of working to promote women's human rights to the world.

We pledge to continue to take action together in solidarity with women of the Philippines, and around the world, who continue amidst difficult circumstances to guarantee women's human rights and eradicate violence against women, and to continue to pursue the true purpose of the memorials to the “comfort women.”

April 30, 2018
Japan Nationwide Action for Resolution of the Japanese Military “Comfort Women” Issue Co-Representatives: YANG Ching Ja, SHIBA Yoko

* The “Nationwide Action” is a national network comprised of over 40 organizations, including the “Japanese Committee for the Filipino 'Comfort Women' (JCFJW)” and “Lola Net – San Tama Support Net for Filipina former “comfort women””.