The women, who are now in their eighties, along with supporters, picketed outside the Japanese embassy to show their discontent towards Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who they believe should have spoken up on the issue of “comfort women” during his most visit to Japan on Tuesday.
The women and protesters in Manila want Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to apologize and compensate them for the traumatic experience they had to live through. They were forced to become “Comfort Women” who serviced Japanese soldiers during the World War Two.
In 1993, Japan apologized for forcing women into wartime prostitutes in the Kono Statement, issued by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.
The Kono Statement offered Japan’s apologies for its soldiers participation in forcing what historians estimate as being over 20,000-200,000 women into prostitution, at the hands of the Japanese army.
“We shall face squarely the historical facts instead of evading them,” the Kono statement promised.
Over the last week Abe has been facing criticism over a report into the statement’s creation. A group of Government-appointed Japanese scholars have raised doubts about the accuracy of the apology, which has in turn raised the ire of the international community.
Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce commented on the study stating that one of the most important lessons is the ability to “admit” to the wrongdoings of the past.
“Those here recognize that confronting this issue is the right thing to do,” Royce said in the statement. “It is important that the Japanese government confronts this dark part of the history of Imperial Japan.”
The Kono statement said that Japan would make proactive efforts to settle the long-running dispute, something Estelita Dy, 84, a victim of the imperial forces over half a century ago is still searching for.
“Abe should be made to answer for what the Japanese soldiers did to us,” Dy said.
Dy said that she didn’t volunteer to work in a brothel, as some Japanese nationalists have contended happened and that she was arrested by Japanese soldiers, shoved into the back of a truck against her will and forced to work at a brothel.
The protesters held signs that said, “Justice for all the Lola’s (grandmothers).”
With the number of survivors dwindling, with only 54 known survivors at an average age of 88 years old, the window for the Japanese government to try to make right with the living survivors is closing.