Upholding the dignity of our nation (Statement of Teresita Ang See, founding president of Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran Inc., April 23, 2018)

A backhoe mysteriously appeared Friday night, April 20, beside the comfort woman statue on Roxas Boulevard in Manila with orders to remove the statue. Teresita Ang See checked with the office of the Manila City Mayor and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Both denied that they have ordered its removal. It remains a mystery as to who made the order. Ang See requested the Manila Police director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel to have policemen guard the statue while clarifications are being made.

We urge our government to uphold the dignity of the Filipino people and not make our country the laughing stock of the world. Let us hold our head up high and not shame our people. No threats of unfriendly relations, economic sanctions, pullout of ambassadors, abrogation of sister city agreement budged Korea, San Francisco, Sydney and others.

Not one country in the world succumbed to Japan’s unreasonable demand to have the comfort women statues removed. We can do no less. We are at par with these countries as we stand secure in upholding the truth and dignity of our nation.

We have not asked Japan to remove the shrines for Japanese soldiers in our land — the kamikaze shrine in Mabalacat, Pampanga; memorial shrines in Corregidor, in Lumban, Laguna, in Muntinlupa and elsewhere.

Show to Japan that we have pride, too, and we will not be subservient to any promises of economic gains at the expense of forgetting history and denying justice to victims. China and Korea continue to be Japan’s major trade partners despite thorns in their relations.

We have long forgiven Japan for the tragedy it caused us — our country and our people – during WWII. But it does not mean we should just forget the atrocities and war crimes, including the rape of our women, visited upon us during the Japanese occupation.

We have to deal with our friends and neighbors cordially and diplomatically, Japan among them. But this does not mean we have to be subservient to unreasonable demands. Good relations with Japan should not come at the expense of forgetting history and disregarding those who have suffered under Japanese occupation.

The comfort women statue on Roxas Boulevard is not intended to insult the Japanese people. It serves to remind humanity that violence against women is unacceptable any time and under any circumstances. It serves to remember the women who suffered and to pay tribute to their courage and resilience.

President Duterte has made it clear: The comfort women statue on Roxas Boulevard is an exercise of freedom of expression. It is pro-forma for the Japan Embassy to protest against the statue, otherwise, it would not be doing its job. But, it is for our own government to defend our position and uphold the dignity of our nation.

The prudent and wise decision, in fact, the only decision our government can make is to leave the statue alone. Japan will respect us more if we stand our ground.

Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace is a lesson that must be taught to present and future generations — that war is never an answer to any conflict, and never again should we visit the war of our fathers on our future generations.

Some sectors are trying to sidetrack the public by making false accusations that it is the Chinese government who is behind the project and thus detracting the issue away from the comfort women and making it a Chinese vs. Japanese issue. It is so far, far, away from the truth.

As Chinese Filipinos, our roots are deep in Philippine soil and our bonds are with the Filipino people. We join hands with Lila Pilipina, the National Historical Commission, Gabriela, Memorare Manila and other national organizations in supporting the installation of the comfort women statue.

Fighting revisionism is important. The comfort women suffered enough and had been ignored for a long time. They kept their secrets for decades, even from their own families. In fact, most of them carried their dark past to the grave.

In Manila and elsewhere, we cannot shame and degrade them all over again by disrespecting a statue built to honor and remember them.

We treasure our right to remember our history and pay our long overdue respects to the comfort women. No one should take away that right.

The presence of the statue is a revelation of our true history, our nation’s acknowledgment that the ordeal of the comfort women happened. Let us not betray our own nation’s honor and dignity.