The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomes the government’s openness and response to the findings and recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in relation to the grievances of the Malaya Lolas, a non-profit organisation that provides support to survivors of sexual slavery.
In his message, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. acknowledged the “grave atrocities endured by the brave Filipino women during wars of the 20th century.” Underscoring that his administration “upholds the primacy of human rights and values the well-being of all Filipino women and girls,” he announced that government agencies are already crafting a comprehensive response to the UN women’s rights committee.
With this expression of commitment by the President himself, CHR Commissioner Faydah M. Dumarpa, the Focal Commissioner for Gender and Development, expressed optimism that the full reparation sought by the victims will be fulfilled urgently.
“I am elated by the marching orders of President Marcos, Jr. as it augurs well with our country’s commitment to protect, promote, and uphold human rights. As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we are hopeful that the government will adhere to its obligation to uphold the right to remedy and reparations of the victims of sexual slavery, which is a gross violation of human rights,” Commissioner Faydah said.
“In line with international standards and basic principles, we also remind that the reparations and remedy must be adequate, effective, and prompt to truly promote justice, peace, and genuine healing,” she added.
In March this year, it can be recalled that the UN CEDAW found that the Philippines violated the rights of sexual slavery victims perpetrated by the Japanese Army during the Second World War. The decision stressed that the government has failed to “provide reparation, social support, and recognition commensurate with the harm suffered” by the victims, also commonly called “comfort women.”
In the same month, CHR as the country’s independent national human rights institution, urged the government to seriously consider and act on the recommendations of the Committee. In particular, CHR highlighted the UN CEDAW’s recommendations to provide “full reparation, including recognition and redress, an official apology, and material and moral damages.” It is crucial that such reparation is proportionate to the gravity of the violation of rights experienced and the physical, psychological, and material damage suffered by the victims.
The Commission notes the PhP10,000 cash aid provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to at least 20 survivors in Pampanga. This is the first time they have been given a cash compensation and we hope this is only the start of the intended reparation, support, and recognition for the abuses they have suffered.
As the government is poised to take necessary actions, CHR reminds the standards for measures to ensure genuine remedy and reparation. It must include restitution or restoration of the victim’s dignity; compensation for both economic and moral damages; rehabilitation, which may include medical and psychological care as well as social and legal services; and, satisfaction or cessation of continuing violations. 
In accordance with these standards and the principles of transitional justice, CHR reiterates our recommendation to include seeking an apology from the Japanese government to fully recognize the harm done and reinstating the comfort women statue that once stood in Manila Bay to memorialize and pay tribute to the bravery and struggles of the Filipina “comfort women” and to remind of the abominable atrocities of war.
“Long overdue” is an understatement to describe the several decades of waiting for full reparation and remedy for the Filipina “comfort women” with many of them carrying the wounds to their old age and some to their grave. CHR thus looks forward to the translation of the government’s commitment into concrete and comprehensive mechanisms and policies that will promptly and genuinely redress the abuses and harms suffered by them. ###