MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, June 5, ordered a report on efforts to help Filipino "comfort women," whom the Japanese military turned into sex slaves during World War II.
"As soon as I get home, I want a report on all of the efforts that have been done for these compatriots of ours who suffered so unnecessarily during the war," Aquino said in a news conference with Japanese reporters.
He also said in an interview with Filipino reporters on Thursday, June 4: "They are our mothers, our sisters, our aunts. It is really incumbent upon our government to take care of our own."
With few official records available, many researchers have estimated around 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan, served Japanese soldiers in "comfort stations."
Tokyo issued a landmark apology in 1993, which acknowledged the military's involvement in the coercive brothel system. But it did not admit the government's complicity in it.
'We have to remember the past'
A United Nations watchdog urged Japan to accept full blame for the comfort women's plight, but Japan rejected this call in 2014.
Comfort women in the Philippines have also demanded a formal apology from Japan. (READ: Comfort women: 'Hustisya para sa mga lola')
On Thursday, Aquino pointed out it is "a constant practice" for Japan "to express remorse and apologies for what transpired during the war." This happens every April during the annual World War II memorial in Mt Samat, Bataan, in the Philippines.
Aquino said an apology from Japan "is important" as "our culture also teaches that."
"We have to remember the past if we are to be able to chart our course toward the future," he said.
Aquino added, "Keeping it in our consciousness helps us prevent the reoccurrence of such a tragedy." – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.