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


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.


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 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



Karmela said…
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.
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 Japan, who have tried to make this recommendation to apologize and to take responsibility for crimes against humanity.

I sat in Congress when this bill was discussed and when it passed unanimously by voice vote. 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. In addition to this gesture between friends, I witnessed our nation stating for world record, that the truth is 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 how have a historical record (and several Congress persons eloquently spoke about this) challenging Japan's denial. Who else can stand up to Japan? The women have been trying for years and they have literally ignored them. So now there is a historical account and 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 times it is because nations like Japan work so hard to deny 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 right 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 Layal 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!

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. We all need to open our eyes.

Thanks again for your comment.

M. Evelina Galang
Mary Witzl said…
Personally, I think that this issue is of interest to the U.S. government. There is evidence to show that the U.S. government knew about Japan's military brothels but did nothing to prosecute those guilty of organizing them because it was handy for the Occupying Forces to keep the system in place. I believe that this issue, along with others (notably Unit 731 in Manchuria) was touched upon at the IMFTE trials, but still the guilty were allowed to go free. I find it outrageous that our government knew about this but did nothing to punish those responsible.