‘Comfort woman’ statue not an insult vs Japan’
A prominent member of the Chinese-Filipino community and anticrime advocate has written Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to question the government’s stand on the installation of a “comfort woman” statue on Roxas Boulevard and its seeming subservience to the Japanese government.
Teresita Ang See wrote the letter after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in response to a complaint from the Japanese Embassy, asked Manila officials to explain why the statue was put up.
For its part, the city government said it merely provided a place for the statue on top of technical support. It pointed to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) as the agency responsible for its installation.
“I do understand that we have to deal with our friends and neighbors cordially and diplomatically. But this does not mean we have to be subservient to unreasonable demands,” Ang See said in her Dec. 22 letter.
“The Japanese occupation is a fact. The atrocities, persecutions, massacres, rape and other war crimes are facts. These we cannot and should not deny. There is a park at the corner of Anda and Gen. Luna Streets in Intramuros, put up by the Memorare Manila, to remember the more than 100,000 civilians killed during the Battle of Manila,” she added.
Ang See, Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order chair and Philippine National Police Foundation Inc. vice chair, stressed that the statue was “not [an] insult to the Japanese people.”
“It serves to remind humanity that violence against women is unacceptable any time and under any circumstances. It also serves to remember the women who suffered and to pay tribute to their courage and resilience. Unveiling the statue at this time is most timely, considering the fact that even in the West, women are coming out to protest against the violence visited upon them,” she said.
In a separate interview, Ang See told the Inquirer that she only read in the papers the move taken by the DFA and the city government’s reply, adding that she was “shocked” at how these government officials treated the country’s history.
The “comfort woman” statue was officially unveiled on Dec. 8 on Roxas Boulevard. Created by artist Jonas Roces, it pays tribute to Filipino women forced into becoming sex slaves of Japanese troops during World War II. In September, the unveiling of a similar statue in San Francisco, California, angered the Osaka mayor, who vowed to cut his city’s sister-ties with San Francisco.
The statue in Manila was commissioned by Tulay Foundation’s Manuel Chua. After Chua died, the NHCP contacted Ang See and she gave its installation her “enthusiastic approval.”
But days after its unveiling, the DFA asked the Manila government to explain what led to the statue’s installation. A representative from the Japanese Embassy also went to City Hall to make similar inquiries, according to Jojo Alcovendaz, the city administrator .
In her letter, Ang See asked: “I am wondering what your position is on the statue. I hope your query does not mean disapproval of putting up such a statue. If so, why? Is it because the Japanese Embassy protested?”
“Japan’s Embassy has to make a pro forma objection. That is its job. It is, however, our government’s job is to defend our position and I am sure Japan will think the better of our country for standing its ground. Remember, even Germany apologized for the millions of Jews massacred by the Nazis. The Germans even built the Holocaust Memorial to teach their people a lesson—that never again should they visit such atrocity on any human being,” she said.
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