Friday, August 24, 2007

Restoration of Human Dignity is Everyone's Business




Here's a comment I received from Karmela. She brought up some good questions that I thought I'd share with everyone. Here's her comment and my response:



While I fully support the Lolas and their fight for justice and recognition, I must question the methods being used. Why is this issue of concern to the United States government? They neither participated in nor were victimized by the atrocities. I don't believe that the U.S. political landscape is the correct forum to address this issue. While you may argue that the U.S. is already involved simply by the fact that so many of the Lolas now live here, let's all be realistic. This nation is much, much more concerned with other, more imminent issues such as the war on terror or the immigration issue that hits Americans closer to home.

I'm not saying let's just leave the Lolas' issues alone. What I'm saying is that why isn't this being addressed more on a world stage, i.e., the U.N.? If an apology from Japan is what the Lolas' ultimate goal is, that's the type of thing the United Nations was built to handle.

If this issue has already been brought in front of the U.N., I apologize for my ignorance. Let me just reiterate that I fully support the Lolas' cause; I merely question the tactics used to achieve the goal.

Posted by Karmela to FRIENDS OF LOLAS at August 23, 2007 2:24 PM


Dear Karmela,

Thanks for your comment. The UN has made recommendations to Japan, and Japan has ignored them. If you read Philippine House Res. 124, also on this blog, you'll see a long line of international courts, including Japanese courts, have tried to make this recommendation: That the Japanese government apologize and take responsibility for crimes against humanity.

On July 30th, I sat in the U.S. House of Representatives' gallery and witnessed Congress discuss House Res. 121 as they passed the bill unanimously. I can tell you, from watching the discussion, that U.S. involvement, through House Resolution 121, was a message from one friendly nation to another. Many Congress persons, including my representative, Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen,the senior ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, stated that we are good friends with Japan, strong allies, and friends need to be honest with one another -- when we do something wrong or see our friends doing something wrong -- it is our obligation, as a good friend to point it out. A good friend receiving that advice might still be in denial, at first, but at some point, you hear your friend out and you respond. We are waiting for that response.

In addition to this gesture between friends, I witnessed our Congress state for the record, that Japanese Imperial Army abducted and enslaved over 200,000 women and girls during World War II. No matter how much the government of Japan denies this truth, we now have a historical record (and several Congress persons eloquently spoke about this) challenging Japan's denial. The women have been standing before the Japanese courts, before gates of their embassies and at conferences trying to set the record straight, but Japan has literally ignored them. Now the U.S. has gone on record about this human rights violation and many other nations are well on their way to contributing to this historical account so the women's experiences cannot be washed away.

Lastly, what passing House Resolution 121 in the U.S. Congress has done, is it has brought awareness and light to this subject matter, it is an avenue for educating those who have not heard of the plight of the former "Comfort Women." The story has been kept a secret by the women and their families -- sometimes out of shame, and at times it is because Japan has worked hard to deny and cover up the truth. But for the most part, this issue has not had a venue or reason to be taught outside of the small communities of activists like Gabriela Network, babae and Filipina for Rights and Empowerment. But U.S. involvement has brought this issue forward. Everyone should be involved. This is a human rights issue. It is about people and what we have done to and allowed to do to one another. The passing of House Resolution 121 has inspired other nations to make like resolutions -- among them Canada's Motion 291 and the Philippines House Resolution 124. I am grateful for the hard work of all U.S. citizens who took part in passing this bill -- Congress yes, but private citizens too -- Annabel Park, Chejin Park, Jonghwa Lee, Eric Byler, Mindy Kotler, OK Cha Soh, Rita Wong and others of the 121 Coalition -- my own students -- Elaine Ruda, Amberly Reynolds, Marra Wilcox, and Layla Dousany.

The plan is that we are all going back to the United Nations. Congressmen and women -- Representatives like Falmeomavaega, Honda, Lantos and Lee -- have publicly stated this resolution is only the first step. Next step, UN again, but this time more nations will be aware of the stories of the women and I am hoping it will be harder for Japan to ignore their recommendations.

I am so proud to be a FilAm woman and see this announcement by organizations like Gabriela Network, babae and Filipina for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE). I hope it is the first of many teach-ins. It is about time that we start educating one another, beyond our own communities. The lolas' stories are among the 200,000 stories of women and girls taken during that war. There are women in China, Korea, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Netherlands who have their own stories of WWII and the Japanese Imperial Army's actions against them. We all need to open our eyes.

I invite you all to join me with Friends of the Lolas.

Thanks again for your comment.

M. Evelina Galang

Thursday, August 23, 2007

FilAm Women Demand Justice for Lolas 62 Years After the End of WWII


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Donna Denina, Vice Chair – Pinay 206.438.3521
Valerie Francisco, Chair – FiRE 925-726-5768
Marisa Mariano, Chair – babae 415.333.6267

Progressive Filipino women's organizations babae – San Francisco, FiRE (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment) – New York, and Pinay sa Seattle (in collaboration with progressive Korean American organization, Sahngnoksu), member organizations of Bayan-USA, launches a nationally coordinated campaign today to demand justice for Comfort Women. During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army abducted and repeatedly raped a reported 100,000-250, 000 young girls and women in Japanese occupied colonies and territories including China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In 1992, Maria Rosa Luna Henson, at the age of 65, was the first Filipino comfort woman to publicly come forward with her story. This encouraged more and more women in the Philippines to emerge from almost 50 years of silence since the end of WWII. On June 25, 1994, LILA-PILIPINA was formally launched and founded by comfort women survivors and members of the Task Force on Filipino Comfort Women. To this day, hundreds of surviving comfort women continue to seek an apology from the Japanese government, demand that their stories be included in Japanese history textbooks, and that they be adequately compensated for themselves and their families.

Ritchelda Estremadura, Executive Director of LILA-PILIPINA states, "Justice remains elusive for the Filipina 'comfort women.' Many of the Lolas have died but we must continue the fight for justice. Otherwise, we will not learn from the lessons of history and more women will suffer the fate of 'comfort women'."

Last month, the United States passed House Resolution 121, which stipulates that Japan officially acknowledge, apologize, and take responsibility for their role in the atrocities committed against women and children during WWII. However, despite the passing of this resolution, we remain steadfast in our fight to end all wars of aggression being led by the United States so that crimes committed against innocent women and children may never happen again.

In light of the passage of HR 121, Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women's Party filed a House Resolution on August 13, 2007 urging the Philippine Government for Japan to "FORMALLY AKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND ACCEPT ITS RESPONSIBILITY OVER THE SEXUAL SLAVERY OF YOUNG WOMEN COMMONLY KNOWN AS COMFORT WOMEN BY THE JAPANESE IMPERIAL ARMY DURING WORLD WAR II AND PROVIDE COMPENSATION TO THE VICTIMS." The women's partylist group has also filed House Bill 1136 "An Act Providing for the Inclusion in the History Books of Elementary, Secondary and Collegiate Curricula the Lives and Heroism of Filipino Comfort Women during the Japanese Occupation and Appropriating Funds Therefore".

Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan says that "passing the resolution will help boost initiatives of Japanese legislators seeking to pass a bill entitled Promotion of Resolution for Issues Concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Coercion Act. The bill was introduced last June 9, 2004 to the House of Councilors in Japan, jointly by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and by independent senators."

Please join babae, FiRE, and Pinay in a nationally coordinated campaign to seek justice for the comfort women and to demand that the Government of the Philippines must not turn their backs on the heinous crimes of sexual violence afflicted upon their own citizens. As Filipinas who uphold the rights and welfare of women all over the world, we are united that the fight for justice goes beyond just an apology and acknowledgement in text books. We must continue to put an end to all wars of aggression and pressure the US backed Arroyo regime to send all US troops out of the Philippines.

Events and actions spanning 3 cities nationwide will take place this week as a continuation of the Global Action Day Demonstration on the issue of "comfort women" which began on August 15th. Please contact the organizations listed below for more information on how you may be involved in your local area.


NO TO WARS OF AGGRESSION!! !
NO TO ANOTHER GENERATION OF COMFORT WOMEN!
US TROOPS OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!

San Francisco - babae
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Film showing about surviving comfort women of WWII
Doors open at 6:30pm
Filipino Community Center
35 San Juan Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112
Light refreshments will be served, followed by an open discussion, and updates on the issue.
*this is a FREE event, but donations are kindly accepted!
Contact: Marisa Mariano - 415.333.6267
info@babaesf. org
www.babaesf. org

New York – FiRE (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment)
Tuesday, August 21st 7-9 pm
Film showing and discussion
International Action Center (IAC)
55 West 17th Street between 5th and 6th Ave, 5th Floor
Take 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, W to 14th Street/Union Square
THIS EVENT IS FREE! Contributions welcomed!
Contact: Hanalei Ramos - 201.790.0995
fire.nyc@gmail. com
www.firenyc. org

Seattle - PINAY sa Seattle
Friday, August 24, 2007 6-9pm
Comfort Women Teach-In
Film Showing and Discussion in collaboration with Sahngnoksu
2100 Building
2100 24th Ave S
Community Room B
Seattle, WA
This is a FREE EVENT
Contact: Donna Denina - 206.438.3521
pinayinfo@gmail. com

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Monday, August 20, 2007

PHILIPPINE CONGRESS HOUSE RES. 124


When I was in Manila, I shared with the Lolas of LILA Pilipina all the work that Congressman Mike Honda, House Committee of Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were doing in conjunction with so many American citizens who were in support of House Res. 121. Little did I realize that I would be sitting in the gallery on July 30, 2007, witnessing the discussion and voice vote.

While the women and supporters of LILA Pilipina were excited about our activities, they made it clear that the passing of U.S. House Res. 121 was not the end of their struggle. When the bill passed with an unanimous voice vote on July 30th, 2007, Congress stood before the world and supported surviving WWII "Comfort Women" and asked their good friends, the Japanese government, to choose the noble action. Apologize. Unequivocally. As each Congress person stood and said, "I rise today in support of House Resolution 121," my heart expanded. For the lolas, the bill's passing validated all their hard work and they too celebrated, but they also understood their battle was just heating up. On August 13, 2007, six representatives from the Republic of the Philippines 14th Congress, including Gabriela party-list Congresswomen Liza Larzoga-Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan introduced House Res. 124 to the Philippines House of Representatives. Below is a draft of the resolution. If you read it, you'll get a sense of the "Comfort Women" history and the struggle in the courts around the globe. There is plenty of evidence, and even the courts of Japan have seen it. Since then, the Lolas of LILA Pilipina have been very busy, standing with their friends before the Japanese Embassy in Manila, making their demands known.




Republic of the Philippines
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Quezon City, Metro Manila

FOURTEENTH CONGRESS
First Regular Session
HOUSE RESOLUTION 124

Introduced by Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives LIZA LARGOZA-MAZA and LUZVIMINDA ILAGAN, Representative EDUARDO C. ZIALCITA, Bayan Muna Representatives SATUR C. OCAMPO and TEODORO A. CASINO, and Anak Pawis Representative CRISPIN BELTRAN:

RESOLUTION EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THAT THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT URGES THE GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN TO FORMALLY ACKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND ACCEPT ITS RESPONSIBILITY OVER THE SEXUAL SLAVERY OF YOUNG WOMEN COMMONLY KNOWN AS COMFORT WOMEN BY THE JAPANESE IMPERIAL ARMY DURING WORLD WAR II AND PROVIDE COMPENSATION TO THE VICITIMS IN THE LIGHT OF THE ADOPTION BY THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF HOUSE RESOLUTION 121 WHICH STATES THAT JAPAN SHOULD FORMALLY ACKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND ACCEPT HISTORICAL RESPONSIBILITY IN CLEAR AND UNEQUIVOCAL MANNER OVER ITS ARMED FORCE’S COERCION OF YOUNG WOMEN INTO SEXUAL SLAVERY DURING ITS COLONIAL AND WARTIME OCCUPATION OF ASIA, AND IN THE LIGHT OF THE LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES IN THE HOUSE OF COUNCILORS OF JAPAN SEEKING APOLOGY, COMPENSATION AND IMMEDIATE RESOLUTION OF ISSUES CONCERNING COMFORT WOMEN.

WHEREAS, the recognition of human rights is a valuable tenet in the 1987 Philippine Constitution which states: “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights” (Article II, Section II);

WHEREAS, it has been more than a decade since the World War II comfort women started clamoring for an official apology and legal redress from the government of Japan for the unimaginable suffering they experienced in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army;

WHEREAS, the Japanese government recognized the issues concerning comfort women as a social problem in June 1990;

WHEREAS, after realizing the importance of the matter, the Japanese government proceeded to conduct a research, after which, it admitted its involvement in the sexual slavery case, expressed its remorse for the matter of comfort women and apologized for it in August 1993;

WHEREAS, Japanese public officials and private officials have recently expressed their desire to retract or water down its 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the “comfort women.” The 1993 statement of Secretary Kono expressed the sincere apologies of the government of Japan for the ordeal of the women victims of military sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army;

WHEREAS, the Japanese government claimed that it had no obligation to provide compensation for the victims since the matter was already settled when the San Francisco Treaty and other bilateral treaties were signed;

WHEREAS, the UN Report of Miss Radhika Coomaraswamy, the then Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, to the Commission of Human Rights in 1996 urged the Japanese to compensate the former comfort women while Miss Gay McDougal’s UN Report in 1998 severely criticized the Japanese government in its handling of the cases of the comfort women and strongly recommended that Japan raised the issue of compensation to the state-level;

WHEREAS, the Japanese government’s response to the mounting international pressure was the creation of the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) which collected “sympathy money” from Japanese citizens, thereby evading its legal responsibilities as state in addressing the cases of the comfort women. The Asian Women’s Fund has raised U.S. $5,700,000 to extend “atonement” from the Japanese people to the comfort women. The said fund ended on March 31, 2007 and the fund was to be disbanded on that date;

WHEREAS, in April 1998, the South Korean government issued an announcement in which it insisted that the Japanese government decide to give the former comfort women approximately 3 million yen of monetary support;

WHEREAS, the Taiwanese government took similar measures by conferring 2 million yen for the former comfort women to substitute for AWF’s money while seeking a state level compensation and apology from the Japanese government;

WHEREAS, a bill entitled “Promotion of Resolution for Issues Concerning Victims of Wartime Sexual Coercion Act” was introduced to the House of Councilors in Japan, jointly by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and independent senators last June 9, 2004. The same bill was filed last March 21 and November 14, 2001 and January 21, 2003. However, the House of Councilors failed to adopt the bill;

WHEREAS, the main objective of the bill filed at the Japanese House of Councilors was to take immediate steps to restore the dignity and honor of women victims of wartime sexual slavery of the Japanese Imperial Army during the World War II. It aimed to provide the necessary fundamental grounds for the resolution of the issues concerning the victims of wartime sexual coercion that will improve the relationship of the peoples of the concerned nations and will enable Japan to occupy an honored place in the international community;

WHEREAS, the bill indicated measures to restore the honor which includes the announcement of the Japanese government of an apology for the violation and dignity of the victims of wartime sexual slavery and the implementation of necessary means to immediately restore their honor, including monetary compensation;

WHEREAS, the same measure will again be filed at the House of Councilors of Japan;

WHEREAS, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea had already approved their resolution recommending the Japanese Diet to consider and enact the bill on the promotion for the resolution of issues concerning victims of wartime sexual coercion;

WHEREAS, the U.S. House of Representatives on July 31, 2007, approved its House Resolution 121 expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force’s coercion of young women into sexual slavery known to the world as “comfort women,” during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands form the 1930’s through the duration of World War II;

WHEREAS, the Government of Japan is a signatory to the 1921 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children and supported the 2000 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security which recognized the unique impact of armed conflict on women;

WHEREAS, by following the step of the U.S. House of Representatives in passing Resolution No. 121, the Philippine government is demonstrating its earnest interest to help Filipino comfort women achieve justice they deserve and reclaim their dignity and that of the Filipino people;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES expresses its sense that the Philippine government urges the government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept its responsibility over the sexual slavery of young women commonly known as comfort women by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and provide compensation to the victims in the light of the adoption by the U.S. House of Representatives of House Resolution 121which states that Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in clear and unequivocal manner over its armed force’s coercion of young women into sexual slavery during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia, and in the light of the legislative initiatives in the House of Councilors of Japan seeking apology, compensation and immediate resolution of the issues concerning comfort women.

Adopted.

LIZA LARGOZA-MAZA
LUZVIMINDA C. ILAGAN
EDUARDO C. ZIALCITA
SATUR C. OCAMPO
TEODORO A. CASINO
CRISPIN B. BELTRAN
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