Address issue of comfort women

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today called on the Aquino administration to support the cause of Filipino ‘comfort women’ who were used as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army at the height of World War II.

The lady senator made the appeal following reports that President Benigno Aquino III is planning to ask Congress to appropriate funds for war-time comfort women in order to make up for the failure of past governments to undertake such reparation.

Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations, has taken up the cause of comfort women in the last three Congresses.

In the 13th and 14th Congress, she filed a resolution directing the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to exert utmost diplomatic efforts to push for the immediate passage of a bill filed before the House of Councilors of Japan (Diet of Japan) concerning issues related to victims of war-time sexual coercion. Cayetano plans to refile the said resolution when session resumes next week.

Along with the resolution, Cayetano has also re-filed a bill that seeks to provide compensation and health benefits to the comfort women. She is hopeful that President Aquino will certify as urgent Senate Bill 2083, the “Comfort Women Compensation and Benefit Act of 2010,” a measure which she has been re-filing since the 13th Congress.

“These women who are now in the twilight of their lives have suffered in silence for decades, but still managed to gather the courage to come out and tell the whole world their story and demand justice for the dastardly acts committed against them. More than half a century has passed, and many of them have passed away without receiving any apologies and compensation for the trauma they suffered.”

“The government, however, has chosen to remain indifferent to their plight. It simply waited for the Japanese government to take the initiative of issuing an apology and providing compensation to the comfort women, which both never happened. This bill seeks to recognize the comfort women and alleviate their suffering through financial compensation and health insurance from our government.”

Under the bill, the Philippine Commission on Women (formerly the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women) will be tasked with determining the authenticity of the claims and identities of comfort women, with the assistance of various accredited cause-oriented women’s groups.

The measure sets aside an initial fund of P10 million for the processing of applications and payment of pensions and insurance of the comfort women. The comfort women will be entitled to a monthly compensation of P3,000 through the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, free full medical insurance through PHilhealth, and counseling and guidance through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

It may be recalled that a group of 70 comfort women belonging to the “Malaya Lolas Organization” recently suffered a major setback early this year when the Supreme Court junked their petition asking the Philippine government to espouse their claims for official apology and other reparations against the Japanese government before the International Court of Justice and other international tribunals.

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