China’s President Xi can pro­vide key to han­dling the is­sue of com­fort women

Manila Times - - OPINION - Lola Com­fortWo­man:ASlaveof Des­tiny,

stressed in the speech.

But the Ka­muning Bak­ery fo­rum im­me­di­ately struck a dis­cor­dant note in re­gard to this stand by President Xi, who ended the speech with­out any al­lu­sion to war. Al­though he did take an oc­ca­sion to stress that China was pre­pared to up­hold as well its sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity at all times, it was, at most, a dec­la­ra­tion of self-de­fense, which was far from be­ing war­like.

In con­trast, the state­ments de­liv­ered by the Ka­muning Bak­ery fo­rum pan­elists, the tan­dem of Gabriela Chair Partylist Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ar­lene Brosas and the group’s Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Joms Sal­vador, were ad­ver­sar­ial, if not bel­liger­ent. In any case, they in­di­cated a readi­ness to take up their cause in the mil­i­tant man­ner it has been con­duct­ing its mass ac­tions for ad­vanc­ing a va­ri­ety of women’s is­sues and a host of other so­cial con­cerns.

As I stated in my pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle on the topic, “Rape of Women in War is A Griev­ous Given,” the topic of women de­filed, along with can­ni­bal­ism and bes­tial­ity, is on top of my list of taboos. The rea­son for this is that not only is it ex­tremely de­mean­ing to the vic­tims, more so in the case of vic­tims who are now late sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­ans or oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans, but of war, it must be ac­cepted as an un­avoid­able col­lat­eral dam­age. I know of no grand­daugh­ter who would ap­pre­ci­ate the public sham­ing of her (grandma) even for the sake of such ex­treme, al­beit ab­stract, im­per­a­tives as jus­tice and his­tor­i­cal in­tegrity.

China her­self was among the worst suf­fer­ers of World War II, with the rape of Nank­ing be­ing rated next to the Holo­caust in the de­gree of atro­cious­ness, but with - ing on to his dream of a world com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny, I am con­strained to as­sume that that sorry episode in China’s his­tory will not get in the way of build­ing friendly re­la­tions with Ja­pan on a solid ba­sis.

President Xi states: “China will deepen re­la­tions with its neigh­bors in ac­cor­dance with the prin­ci­ple and in­clu­sive­ness, and the pol­icy of forging friend­ship and part­ner­ship with its neigh­bor.”

I can­not imag­ine China veer­ing away from President Xi’s vi­sion by strik­ing up a bel­liger­ent stance against Ja­pan over war of­fenses com­mit­ted against the na­tion and its peo­ple. Yet, the way I gath­ered it from the Ka­muning Bak­ery fo­rum, the Gabriela tan­dem of Brosas and Sal­vador was harp­ing on just those past of­fenses in try­ing to drum up sup­port for its stand, con­trary to its per­ceived war-ori­ented mil­i­tary build-up of

Okay, I sub­scribe to the propo­si­tion that Ja­pan has no busi­ness pres­sur­ing the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment into dis­man­tling the Com­fort Women statue on Roxas Boule­vard. If we are talk­ing about his­tory, then that com­fort women statue has, hav­ing been al­ready cer­e­monies, be­come part of Philip­pine her­itage that must, like all other as­pects of that her­itage, be pro­tected at all cost.

President Xi must be ad­dress­ing this is­sue by cit­ing the Five Prin­ci­ples of Peace­ful Co-ex­is­tence as ba­sis for strength­en­ing friend­ship and co­op­er­a­tion among na­tions, namely, mu­tual re­spect for sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, mu­tual non-ag­gres­sion, mu­tual non-in­ter­fer­ence in each other’s in­ter­nal af­fairs, equal­ity and mu­tual

Clearly, Ja­pan, if it is true that it is ap­ply­ing pres­sure upon the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment to get the Com­fort Women statue re­moved, vi­o­lates these prin­ci­ples, at least on two counts: re­spect for sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, and non­in­ter­fer­ence in each other’s in­ter­nal af­fairs. In this re­spect, the Tu­lay Foun­da­tion, ini­tia­tors of the his­tori the Ja­panese in­ter­ven­tion and its call for sup­port of its cam­paign to pro­tect the statue from dis­man­tle­ment is well in place.

Let’s keep the con­tro­versy at that. To go be­yond – to ven­ture into a tirade ex­pos­ing the war de­signs of Ja­pan; to in­sin­u­ate that President Ro­drigo Duterte will bow down to Ja­pan and get the statue torn down; to call for a mil­i­tant peo­ple’s move­ment in achiev­ing one’s ob­jec­tives – makes one’s ob­jec­tives in this whole ex­er­cise sus­pect. These calls will nec­es­sar­ily lead to an open con­fronta­tion. Can this be an ad­vo­cacy of China?

President Xi Jin­ping states: “We call on the peo­ple of all coun­tries to work to­gether to build a com­mu­nity with a shared fu­ture for mankind, to build an open, in­clu­sive, clean, and beau­ti­ful world that en­joys last­ing peace, uni­ver­sal se­cu­rity, and com­mon prosperity. We should re­spect each other, dis­cuss is­sues as equals, res­o­lutely re­ject the cold war men­tal­ity and power politics, and take a new ap­proach to de­vel­op­ing state-tostate re­la­tions with com­mu­ni­ca­tion, not con­fronta­tion, and with part­ner­ship, not al­liance. We should com­mit to set­tling dis­putes through di­a­logue and re­solv­ing dif­fer­ences through dis­cus­sion, co­or­di­nate re­sponses to tra­di­tional and non-tra­di­tional threats, and op­pose ter­ror­ism in all its forms.”

The is­sue of com­fort women 1993, when Maria Rosa Luna Hen­son came out to ex­pose the sex­ual slav­ery im­posed upon Filipino women by the Ja­panese dur­ing the war. I had been grap­pling with the ques­tion of ex­actly what prompted the then 69-year-old grand­mother to come out into the open and ad­mit her shame pub­licly. (In her book

she ad­mits hav­ing been raped by as many as 30 Ja­panese sol­diers in a day, and on a daily ba­sis the num­ber of Ja­panese troops that feasted on her four­teen-yearold chastity did not fall be­low 12.)

So to the Gabriela stal­warts I threw the ques­tion, “When was Gabriela formed and did it play any part in the public self-sham­ing of Lola Rosa?”

In a lengthy fash­ion, Brosas and Sal­vador took turns elab­o­rat­ing their an­swers to the ques­tion which, as the lat­ter put it, “to make a long story short,” sum up to: “Gabriela was formed in 1984 (this was the pe­riod of wide­spread up­heavals re­sult­ing from the, what I call, eu­thana­sia Benigno Aquino Manila In­ter­na­tional Air­port tar­mac on Au­gust 21, 1983). And, yes, they took an ac­tive part in Lola Rosa’s grand per­for­mance.”

Ques­tion an­swered.

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