MANILA – Relatives of Filipina women forced into sex slavery under the Imperial Japanese occupation between 1942-45 have once again requested an official apology 74 years after the end of World War II.
“We honor the memory of the victims in Asian countries occupied by Japan in World War II, many of whom have died without getting justice,” said Lila Pilipina, an organization representing so-called “comfort women.”
The descendants of 170 of the victims protested outside of the Malacañag presidential palace in Manila on Wednesday, calling on President Rodrigo Duterte’s government to defend the “memory and honor” of the victims.
“It saddens us that 74 years after the end of the war, Japan still refuses to atone for its atrocities in that conflict. It has embarked on a shameless campaign to erase the world’s memory by silencing all efforts to commemorate the victims,” said Sharon Cabusao-Silva, Lila Pilipina’s director.
The group lamented Japan’s efforts to block the construction of statues honoring the victims.
In April, plans to erect such a sculpture in Manila were scrapped when Japan protested and threatened to cut financial aid to the Philippines.
The protest on Wednesday was also attended by Estelita Dy, 89, one of the six lolas, or “grandmothers” in Tagalog, as the survivors are affectionately known, who remains alive today.
Thousands of Filipina women are thought to have been forced to work in brothels during the occupation.
The Japanese Empire is said to have held more than 200,000 women and girls in forced prostitution in Korea, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines during their military conquests in the Pacific region.
The organization also protested against modern-day sexual violence against women, saying rape was still used as a weapon to subjugate women as an instrument of war and genocide.