PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said the comfort woman statue along Roxas Boulevard that was removed by the Public Works Department Friday can be transferred somewhere else, saying it was an insult to the Japanese government that had alr eady made reparations to the Filipino women who were forced into sexual slavery during the Second World War.
Duterte, however, said he was not aware of the decision to remove the statue to give way to a drainage improvement project.
“Whose initiative was it [to remove the statue]? I really do not know. I don’t even know that it exists,” Duterte said in a press briefing Sunday dawn.
“But it has created somehow a bad [impression]. You can place it somewhere else…But do not use [public spaces] because that issue, insofar as I’m concerned, that issue is already finished.”
“The Japanese had paid dearly for that. The reparation started many years ago. Let us not insult them…If it is erected in a private property, fine, we will honor it and the Japanese government and people would understand that there is a democracy here and freedom of expression is very important. But do not use [public spaces]…It is not the policy of government to antagonize another nation,” the President said.
Duterte said it is difficult to continuously reminisce how Japanese soldiers treated at least 1,000 Filipino comfort women during the 1941 to 1945 wartime occupation.
In January, Japan’s Minister for Internal Affairs Seiko Noda expressed regret over the construction of the 2-meter-high bronze statue that was unveiled by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on Dec. 8.
Duterte, however, told the visiting Japanese official the national government will remain “blind and deaf” to the issue and will leave it to Manila local executives to deal with the statue.
“That [freedom of expression of the relatives of comfort women] is a constitutional right which I cannot stop. It’s prohibitive for me to do that,” the President said.
The Gabriela Women’s Party on Sunday denounced the sudden removal of the statue erected to honor comfort women during World War II, as it called for an investigation over the incident.
“We denounce the sneaky, ‘ninja’ removal of the statue as such move points to the obliteration of Japan’s gross and systemic sexual abuse of Filipino women in our history,” Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said.
“Such is a shameful hallmark of a foreign policy that kowtows to foreign powers but treats foreign rights advocates like Sister Patricia Fox harshly,” she added.
Brosas said her group will file a resolution in Congress to determine who are behind the removal of the statue.
Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the liability of Manila City officials and other agenicies should also be examined.
“Why was the removal done in the night, apparently with the permission of the local government? Was the National Historical Commission notified? Somebody should answer for demolishing the memory of all the women who were victims of sex slavery,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
De Jesus said the statue’s removal constitutes a blatant insult to all women victimized by Japanese forces during World War II who are denied justice up to now.
“Quite ironically, Japan boasts of its mega-infrastructure urban landscapes but scurries away upon the sight of any concrete reminder of its atrocities and abuse against women,” De Jesus said.