MANILA, May 4 Kyodo
The Philippine Supreme Court has denied a petition by a group of Filipino wartime sex slaves who want the Philippine government to support their demand for an apology and compensation from the Japanese government before international tribunals.
In a 34-page decision written by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo dated Wednesday, the court said the issue of whether the Philippine government should espouse claims of its nationals against a foreign government is a diplomatic matter that must be addressed by the executive branch of government, not by the courts.
''Of course, we greatly sympathize with the cause of the petitioners, and we cannot begin to comprehend the unimaginable horror they underwent at the hands of the Japanese soldiers,'' the ruling, released Tuesday, said.
More than 70 Filipino former sex slaves, known euphemistically in Japan as ''comfort women,'' asked the Supreme Court in March 2004 to declare Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Domingo Albert, former Justice Secretary and now Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and former Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo to have committed abuse of discretion in refusing to espouse their claims for crimes against humanity.
The aging women, all members of the Malaya Lolas Organization, were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II.
The petitioners said the government violates its legal obligation to pursue crimes against humanity in refusing to back their complaints against Japan before the International Court of Justice and other international courts.
The lawsuit said the Philippine government's acceptance of apologies made by Japan, as well as monetary payment from the Asian Women's Fund, financed by the Japanese government, were contrary to international law.
The lawsuit argued that the general waiver of claims made by the Philippine government in the peace treaty with Japan in 1951 is void.
The Philippine government argues that taking up the petitioners' cause would be inimical to the country's foreign-policy interests and could disrupt its relations with Japan.
Corazon Requizo, secretary general of the Women in Unity for Freedom group, called the court's decision ''very disappointing.''
''We are saddened...in other countries, their governments even extend material assistance to their comfort women. But here, we have none, not even support for these victims' claims,'' Requizo told Kyodo News over the telephone.