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Human Face

Becoming the world’s most bullied

In 2000 I covered the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal in Tokyo that investigated and tried atrocities against women in countries occupied by Japan during World War II. This was some 60 years after the war crimes were committed. The trial was initiated by civil society, human rights and women’s groups from Asia, Europe and the host country, Japan.

The Philippine delegates, some 20 former sex slaves/comfort women, all in their twilight years, had suffered rape and other cruelties in the hands of Japanese soldiers. I had written about this in the Inquirer (“Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal,” Dec. 5, 2000) and the piece is included in my latest book (“Human Face: A Journalist’s Encounters and Awakenings,” Anvil Publishing and Inquirer Books, 2013). I need not repeat here what I had written.

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What I did notice then was how delegations from countries with emerging economies or going up the world’s center stage—for example, South Korea and China—brought in their women survivors with dramatic aplomb, festering rage and showiness. In contrast, those from the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia, North Korea and Taiwan were more subdued, but no less zealous in their quest for justice.

If the complainants did not get direct profuse apologies and material compensation from the Japanese government, they had at least poetic justice when documents previously hidden were presented for the first time to prove that unspeakable crimes had indeed been committed. This, despite the postwar Japanese government’s deliberate attempt to destroy war documents that had to do with violations of international laws and its refusal to make documents available.

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Now what do we make of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s  statement that the use of comfort women was “necessary” to keep battle-stressed soldiers in fighting form? His comments sparked outrage among Asian countries and even drew US criticism. Agence France-Presse cited a survey showing that a large majority of Japanese disagreed with the mayor’s position.

This is the 21st century, we are in the third millennium, and Hashimoto does not know that having sex slaves is a crime against humanity?

Shouldn’t Filipinos file a protest?

Lola Tomasa Salinog of Antique and Lola Rosa Henson of Pampanga, two of the most vocal former comfort women who had emerged from the shadows to tell their stories before they passed on, must be turning in their graves. Salinog was present at the Tokyo tribunal and refused compensation if it was not from the Japanese government.

Our country and people have been trashed these past months—through words and deeds—by bullies or bully countries that think they can get away with it. China suddenly extends its boundaries and claims the Philippines’ Panatag Shoal. It also wants for itself the entire Spratly island chain that is being claimed wholly or partly by several other countries including the Philippines.

Throwing away diplomatic protocol, Taiwan’s leaders would want our President no less to grovel before them, to apologize and make amends on their own terms, for the death of one Taiwanese fisherman during an encounter between a Taiwanese fishing vessel and the Philippine Coast Guard at the Balintang Channel. Philippine representatives have been sent to Taiwan but they were treated badly despite ongoing investigations.  The belligerent Taiwanese want to call it murder.

A life lost is a life lost. There is no contesting that. But unfortunate events happen in this world. People get killed by friendly fire, because of mistaken identity or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But now, Taiwan seems to want to draw blood. Already, overseas Filipino workers who comprise a big percentage of Taiwan’s working force are being harassed, threatened and hurt simply because they are Filipinos.

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I hope no self-serving Filipino group claiming to be the champion of OFWs will start a clamor to make President Aquino demean himself to appease the Taiwan leadership that is supposedly waning in popularity.

No powerful or power-tripping nation will bully another nation that is down on its knees, gripped by poverty, experiencing internal strife, or under threat of extinction.  But a potential competitor for a place on the world’s center stage, a humble emergent neighbor rich in human, natural and cultural resources can be perceived as a threat and therefore must be made to realize early on where its rightful place is—the dumps. And we’re not even acting like upstarts.

Are we becoming the world’s most bullied?

We have always been a gracious, hospitable, accommodating people. For example, when it was closing time for refugee camps and no nation wanted to take in the remaining Vietnamese refugees, the Philippines built them a village of their own with the help of Catholic bishops.

In 1998 I did a three-part investigative report on the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome that was afflicting OFWs in Taiwan and workers in a Taiwanese factory here. Did our government, or we, as a people, raise a howl to make the Taiwanese pay for what they had caused?

Our own people get beheaded, hanged, raped, taken hostage or beaten up in other countries, and we don’t rattle our saber. In the case of convicted drug mules, we say they had it coming. I agree. But rampant abuse of Filipino domestic helpers?

Filipinos are spread out around the world, so the likelihood of Filipinos getting into bad situations not of their own making is high. I fear that our people abroad are becoming the world’s most bullied, and they probably don’t know it.

Now neighboring governments are bullying us, and we better know it.

One increases in strength by naming the pain (in the …). President Aquino has given it a name: “bullies in our backyard.”

Send feedback to [email protected] or www.ceresdoyo.com

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TAGS: comfort women, Japan, Rape, women, World War II
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