Lawyer to take case of Filipino ‘comfort women’ to UN

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Sunday, August 17, 2014


THE lawyer of more than 70 Filipino women who were raped and physically abused by Japanese soldiers during World War II is set to take up the case of the so-called “comfort women” to the United Nations (UN).

In a statement, lawyer Harry Roque said they will take up the case before the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Children (CEDAW).

This was in response to the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision on August 12 not to reverse its April 2010 ruling denying the petition of the Malaya Lolas Organization to compel the Philippine Government to ask Japan to apologize and compensate victims of sexual slavery.

“The denial of justice to the Filipino comfort women by our very own Supreme Court (SC) is a violation of our treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Children,” he said.

Tokyo, however, had already rejected the call of Geneva-based UNHRC to take responsibility for the wartime sexual slavery involving some 200,000 women from Korea, China, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

In a report by the Agence France Presse (AFP) on July 25, Japan urged the UN body to follow the ICCPR which Tokyo ratified in 1979.

“The covenant is not supposed to be applied to issues, including the comfort women issue, dating back further than that time (1979),” the report said, quoting an official at the Japanese foreign ministry’s press division.

In 1993, Tokyo offered an apology for the military’s dastardly acts but did not say if the wartime government tolerated such.

Roque said the SC apparently stood by its decision that during World War II, there was no consensus yet in the international community on the absolutely prohibited nature of rape and sexual slavery as war crimes.

On that basis, the Court then said it cannot compel the Philippine government to take up the cudgels for the Filipino women who were forcibly drafted by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve in military brothels.

“With due respect, we do not agree with the High Court’s unequivocal holding that while our clients had indeed suffered a violation of their rights, there is no available remedy for them,” said Roque.

The decision became controversial after its author, Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, was accused of plagiarism and twisting of sources, resulting in an impeachment complaint against him in 2011.

The complaint failed to prosper at the House of Representatives while the SC, in a separate investigation, said the erasure of footnotes was accidental.

The SC also sanctioned 37 professors of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law, led by then Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, for their open letter criticizing del Castillo’s alleged mistakes.

Leonen did not participate in the High Court's deliberation of the elderly women’s appeal. (Sunnex)

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