Filipino rights groups decry removal of World War II ‘comfort women’ statue
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Filipino rights groups decry removal of World War II ‘comfort women’ statue

WOMENS rights groups in the Philippines are up in arms over the quiet removal of a statue representing the country’s sex slaves during World War Two in Manila on Saturday.

The statue was found missing on Saturday morning with only an excavator at the site, Reuters reported. Local media reported a similar excavator was previously seen parked beside the statue last week.

Co-founder of Chinese-Filipino organization “Unity for Progress” (Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran), Teresita Ang See told a news conference that the public works ministry had told them there was an order to remove the statue to give way to flood control projects along Manila Bay, but that the order had not been cascaded down and released.

See told the Inquirer that the removal was “kneeling down to Japan”.

“They removed it late Friday night … just like criminals who were afraid of daylight,” she said.

SEE ALSO: South Korea: Wartime ‘comfort women’ to get museum in their honour    

A spokesman for Manila’s city hall said they did not order the removal and that the statue is not in their custody.

According to Rappler, Women’s group Gabriela blasted its removal, calling it “a foul insult on hundreds of Filipina sex slaves victimised under the Japanese occupation.”

A Filipino-Chinese association and women’s rights group, with the approval of the National Historical Commission, erected a seven-foot bronze monument of a standing and blindfolded woman along Manila bay’s promenade last December to pay tribute to the more than 1,000 Filipino comfort women during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s.

Weighing in on the outrage, Philippines President Rodrigo said the statue can be placed “somewhere else” as it was not his administration’s policy to “antagonise other nations.”

“Whose initiative was it, I really do not know. I didn’t even know that it exists. But it has created somehow a bad, you know… You can place it somewhere else,” Duterte said, as quoted by Rappler.

SEE ALSO: Japan, S.Korea ‘comfort women’ feud flares amid Pyongyang missile fears   

However, Duterte said he did not object to having the statue place on private property, it was part of freedom of expression.

The president also noted Japan’s reparation efforts following the end of the war. “It’s still painful to keep on repeating it. And you start to imagine how they (comfort women) were treated badly,” he said.

“But Japan has apologised to the Filipinos. And they have certainly made much more in terms of reparations.”