A statue in Manila to commemorate wartime sex slaves — called comfort women by their Japanese tormentors — has been torn down under cover of darkness.
A government official said today (Saturday, April 28) that the bronze statue on Roxas Boulevard was removed as part of a drainage project.
As we reported in December, the unveiling of the seven-foot monument prompted complaints from the Japanese embassy in Manila, who wanted to know who had approved the installation.
The Department of Foreign Affairs was initially unaware of the statue, but later confirmed that it was the National Historical Commission of the Philippines that allowed the Tulay Foundation — a Manila-based group of Chinese-Filipinos — to erect the statue.
Yesterday’s removal of the statue happened under cover of darkness at 10pm.
Manila City Hall administrator Ericson Alcovenda confirmed that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had removed the statue for a drainage improvement project.
“It was removed at about 10pm. It was a decision of the DPWH, not the city hall. We just supervised,” he said.
He added that two other structures along Roxas Boulevard had also been removed.
In a statement, DPWH confirmed that it removed the three statues on Friday night “to give way for the improvement of Roxas Boulevard Baywalk Area”.
Women’s groups have been swift to condemn the unannounced removal of the statue.
In a statement, rights group Gabriela said the government, “like a thief in the night, removed the comfort woman statue in Manila”.
It added that the move was a “desecration of Filipino women’s dignity as it casts a foul insult on hundreds of Filipina sex slaves victimised under the Japanese occupation”.
Following Japan’s compaints over the statue’s installation, President Duterte described it as a “symbol of freedom of expression”, which relatives of comfort women and living comfort women were entitled to use.
“That is a constitutional right which I cannot stop. It’s prohibitive for me to do that,” he said.
Similar statues have been erected in South Korea, China and Australia. Last November, the Japanese city of Osaka cut its “sister city” ties with San Francisco, which had also erected comfort woman memorial in one of its parks.
An estimated 1,000 Filipinas were forced to act as comfort women for the Japanese military during the 1941-1945 occupation.