By Roy Mabasa
The comfort women issue has been officially settled and was already part of the World War II reparations made by Japan to the Philippines, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on Friday.
Cayetano was reacting to the controversial memorial for comfort women on Roxas Boulevard that has caused a diplomatic stir between the Philippines and Japan.
“The official stand, not of the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), but of the Philippines for several years is that it has been officially part of the reparation and it has officially been settled,” Cayetano said in an ambush interview.
The War Reparations Act was concluded right after the reestablishment of the Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations in 1956.
Cayetano, however, said that does not stop any group and any individual and the Filipinos in general, from seeking any kind of settlement or justice.
“We’re not in a position to tell any of the family of the comfort women to do this, don’t do this, do that,” he said.
The comfort women issue, according to Cayetano, was already addressed during the time of “our ancestors who did the reparation (talks).”
“So, way back yung mga ninuno natin (who) did the reparation, kasama yung isyu na ‘yan. But of course many were not satisfied and since there are many countries involved … around our region, everyone dealt it differently,” the DFA chief said.
While Cayetano was very cautious in slighting the feelings of the families of victims, he stated that the country’s stand is to accept the reparation as legal documents.
“Those are legal documents… meaning we cannot just go to Japan and say that we want to reopen it or we want to… unilaterally. We can do it by… but not unilaterally,” he said.
During the interview, it was apparent that neither DFA nor Cayetano was consulted prior to the erection of the comfort women statue on Roxas Boulevard.
The foreign affairs secretary explained any consultation would go through several ladders within the DFA itself, starting from the offices in charge of Japan, legal, policy, until it reaches his own office.
“They will look at everything, they will look at what’s the Filipino interest here, what’s the relationship,” he said.
In any issue that affects international ties like the comfort women, Cayetano maintained his position that there should be consultations.
“Honestly I believe anything that affects international relationships there should have been consultations. I’m not asking for veto power, veto power is you have to ask permission, di ba? Kasi we have freedom of speech naman,” he said.
Moreover, Cayetano pointed out that the country cannot strengthen its long-term relationship “if you keep bringing up things that you think are settled.”
Finally, he said it would be his concern if such action, like installing a statue, would lead to misunderstanding with another country.
“For example, ang Hapon (Japanese) naman ay magtatayo ng istatwa sa Japan na may Pilipinong may ginawa sa kanila. As foreign secretary, I’ll call them and say what’s that statue about. Not necessarily protest but what’s it about then I’ll look at the effect kasi the intention and the effect are two different things. Kung ang intention mo lang is to honor, okay yun. Pero kung yung effect, nagkakagalit kayo, concern ko yun,” he said.
On Tuesday, Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda expressed regret over the statue during a meeting with President Duterte in Malacanang.
The Palace immediately distanced itself from the issue, saying that it was not Duterte who ordered the installation of a seven-foot bronze statue of a comfort woman in one of Manila’s most famous and busiest roads.