By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is leaving it to the discretion of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada whether or not to remove the controversial comfort woman statue in the capital following Japan’s expression of regret.
“Bahala siya [It’s up to him],” Duterte said in an interview with MindaNews last Friday, referring to Estrada who has jurisdiction over Roxas Boulevard where the statue symbolizing the World War II comfort women was recently built.
The President said the statue “has not been raised to national policy,” adding the government was “blind and deaf” about the installation of the statue.
Duterte, however, recognized that the sculpture was a form of freedom of expression by the families of the comfort women.
Duterte said he “cannot stop the relatives or even the comfort women still living their freedom to express what they are expressing through the statue.”
“That is a constitutional right which I cannot stop. It’s prohibitive for me to do that,” he said.
Duterte said he relayed this message to Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda when she paid a courtesy call in Malacañang early this month.
He said Japan did not seek the removal of the state but expressed regret.
Malacañang earlier said the sculpture was not a diplomatic issue, insisting that the President has nothing to do with the installation of the statue.
The seven-foot bronze statue was built by the government in memory of the women forced to work as sex slaves during the Second World War. It generated controversy after some Japanese officials reportedly complained about the statue last year.