‘The plagiarism was a second rape’–Filipino comfort women
18 December 2010
This time, the group filed a complaint in Congress to impeach Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo for betrayal of public trust when he supposedly plagiarized portions of his decision dismissing their petition seeking justice for having been forced to become “comfort women”—the term used for sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
They accused Del Castillo of plagiarizing a material “for purposes contrary to the intended positions of the original authors.”
Inspired by Rosa Henson, the first Filipina who talked about her experience as a comfort woman, they were among 10 women who flew to Tokyo, Japan in December 2000 to testify before the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal.
The tribunal, headed by international legal experts including the former president of the International War Crimes Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, found Japan and Emperor Hirohito guilty of war crimes and crime against humanity.
For Sumawang, it was a vindication of sorts because the tribunal recommended that Japan issue a meaningful apology and give compensation to its victims. The tribunal, however, is an NGO initiative and could not enforce its recommendations.
The Malaya Lolas then petitioned the Supreme Court to compel the Philippine government to represent their cause with the Japanese government, but their request was denied in a decision written by Del Castillo using plagiarized quotes. The lolas (grandmothers) sought a reconsideration of the decision last May 31 and July 19.
For Vinuya, the Supreme Court’s dismissal of their petition was a particularly bitter pill to swallow. As president of Malaya Lolas, her name is in the title of the case (Vinuya v. Executive Secretary, G.R. No. 162230) that has now become synonymous with the plagiarism scandal that has hit the court.
For her, the plagiarism was like a second rape. She said, “Sinabi namin sa mismong Supreme Court, ito pong aming kaso—nangopya na sila, binaluktot pa, ang nangyari po sa amin, para pong nadoble ang sakit namin, na nangyari sa aming buhay, para po kaming nagahasang muli (We told the Supreme Court that in our case, they copied, twisted, what happened to us, which doubled the pain, that happened to our lives; it’s as if we were raped again).”
Despite their age, the women are still agile, their minds sharp. Vinuya, Galang and Quilantang are known to “sing” their oral history in an impromptu manner. Just a few days ago, several lolas gathered for a Christmas party at Mapaniqui’s basketball court and were seen dancing to Totoy Bato’s Kapampangan folk songs. Supporters, some even from abroad, sent modest but thoughtful gifts like thick blankets, thermos and kettles.
The wartime ordeal they suffered is still vivid in their minds. It was Nov. 23, 1944. This was their story:
Central Luzon suffered heavily during the war as it was the base of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon or Hukbalahap, a guerilla group initially formed to fight the Japanese troops. At 6:30 a.m., Japanese soldiers were on the hunt for the Huks. They gathered all the men, young and old, at the school courtyard.
Women were forced to watch as the soldiers tortured the men identified as Huks by a “Makapili,” a Filipino who collaborated with the Japanese against the Huks and hid his identity by putting a bayong over his head.
One of the most horrifying images Galang remembers is that of the father of a fellow lola, Tarcila Sampang, being castrated. His severed genitals were then shoved into his mouth.
By 10:30 a.m., 37 men had been bayoneted and shot. Soldiers piled the bodies into the school house which they then torched, along with the residents’ houses made of bamboo and pawid (nipa shingles).
The women were ordered to walk and carry their material possessions to a big, Dutch-inspired mansion they referred to as “Bahay na Pula,” located in neighboring San Ildefonso, Bulacan. During the trek, Galang recalled the soldiers kicked and shoved them.
Upon reaching the mansion, the soldiers dragged the women, ranging from 13 to early 20s, into dark rooms and took turns raping them. The soldiers released them only at around 6 p.m. Some of the women were even more unfortunate because they were brought to the Japanese headquarters in San Miguel, Bulacan, where they were imprisoned for at least three months at the “comfort station.”
The “Bahay na Pula” mansion is privately owned and still stands to this day. Vinuya said they will request that the owners allow them to install a small marker commemorating the events of Nov. 23, 1944.
The Mapaniqui residents denied kinship with the Huks then out of concern for their safety, but they admit with pride today that they were their fathers and brothers.
Last Nov. 23, while the rest of the country remembered the first anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, Mapaniqui quietly marked the 66th anniversary of its own horror. Kaisa Ka, an advocacy group that has been helping the lolas, facilitated a dialog with the new barangay leaders and the result, according to Lot dela Cruz, is encouraging.
“This is not only the lolas’ fight. The rest of the community, including the men, should commit to support the lolas’ campaign for formal apology and reparation from Japan because the atrocities are their shared history,” she said.
Every year, on Nov. 23, the women gather before a niche marking the site where they buried the remains of all 37 men burned in the schoolhouse.