Marcos to government agencies: Help ‘comfort women’
MANILA, Philippines — Saying that the government acknowledges the “grave atrocities” endured by the Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers), the group of surviving comfort women who were treated as sex slaves by the Japanese military during the Second World War, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Saturday said he had ordered government agencies to “appropriately address” their concerns.
In a statement, the president said the government had been “undertaking actions” after the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) called out the Philippines for failing to meet its obligations to the victims of sexual slavery during World War II.
On Friday, at least 20 survivors in Pampanga province received P10,000 each from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the first time cash aid had been given to them.
“We commit to undertaking measures and finding ways to help [the Malaya Lolas] live better lives as an expression of our continued deep solidarity with [them] and of our utmost respect,” Marcos said.
The government, he added, “sincerely commiserates with them as they bear the long-term and irreversible physical and psychological effects of the war.”
During this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, Cedaw issued a statement saying that the Philippine government has violated the rights of World War II comfort women “by failing to provide reparation, social support, and recognition commensurate with the harm suffered.”
It pointed out that the Philippine Commission on Women had not addressed “the institutionalized system of wartime sexual slavery, its consequences for victims and survivors, or their protection needs.”
Vets treated better
In contrast, Cedaw noted that “Philippine war veterans, who are mostly men, are entitled to special and esteemed treatment from the Government, such as educational benefits, health-care benefits, old age, disability, and death pensions.”
Cedaw’s statement was in response to a 2019 case brought before it by the Malaya Lolas.
Marcos said concerned government agencies were already formulating a comprehensive response to the Cedaw committee, and would submit this within the required period.
“We honor [these comfort women’s] indomitable spirit and dignity in taking this important cause forward through these years,” the President said. The government, he said, will continue to uphold the primacy of human rights and will push for gender equality as stated in the country’s laws and treaty obligations, especially under the Cedaw, and other international human rights laws.