MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/09 April) – It’s been seventy years since the Death March that followed the defeat of the combined US and Filipino forces in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army, the sec ond humiliation of the American military after Pearl Harbor.
As usual, the country marked the day with perfunctory rites, although like other skeptics, I continue to wonder why we love to officially remember a defeat. Ironic that the occasion came a day after the whole Christendom celebrated Easter Sunday, a day symbolizing victory over death.
Perhaps time has somehow assuaged the bitter memories of the pains and of a tragedy that shall remain a grim reminder of the folly of war. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of those Japanese soldiers who inflicted the horrors had passed away – hopefully, not before asking Heaven for forgiveness. Hopefully too, the victims, both the living and the dead, had uttered words of forgiveness for the sheer inhumanity that was done to them.
In this morning’s ceremony at the World War II memorial on Mount Samat, the Japanese ambassador mouthed an apology for the sufferings caused by his country’s war of aggression. However, it was rather too short and sounded too casual for acts so despicable that anybody would always be at a loss for words to describe them.
Worse, as in previous years, the fate of the “comfort women,” the Filipino women who were forced to become sex slaves by the Japanese military, was never mentioned. Not by the Japanese government. Not by our own government.
It’s been seventy, long years, and like a few souls out there, I have always hoped that the Japanese government will finally be humble enough to admit the humiliation, indignities and injustice that its soldiers committed against those hapless women. Who knows, one of the victims may have been the grandmother of anyone who happens to read this column but has or had chosen to suffer in silence.
It’s been twenty, long years since Maria Rosa Henson came out in public to reveal her ordeal as a comfort woman, inspiring hundreds of others like herself to come out too. In 2010, the surviving comfort women led by Isabelita Vinuya petitioned government to push for reparations and official apology from Japan for their ordeal. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, in a ruling that was alleged to be a product of a twisted interpretation of a plagiarized legal theory, dismissed the petition.
So strange and revolting that our own Supreme Court had to go to the extent of handing down a dubious jurisprudence to perpetuate a grave injustice against our Lolas.
Meanwhile, many other Filipinas, driven mainly by poverty, have become contemporary comfort women. History does not repeat itself; injustice does. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno writes mainly on the environment, human rights and politics. He can be reached at [email protected])