"Comfort woman” statue “missing” as another marker unveiled in Baclaran church
A "comfort woman" statue, which was removed last year along Roxas Boulevard in Manila following an apparent pressure from the Japanese government, has been allegedly missing.
Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order head Teresita Ang-See disclosed this after sculptor Jonas Roces failed on Sunday to bring the "Lola" statue at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Paranaque City where it was supposed to be re-unveiled along with "Flower's For Lolas" marker.
The government unceremoniously removed the statue along Roxas Boulevard in April 2018 after Japan expressed disappointment over it. It was erected in the area in December 2017.
After its removal, Ang-See said Roces kept the statue for restoration after some of its parts were broken.
“He (Roces) got it for safekeeping to repair those parts that were broken. We were talking with him up to last week. (Last) Thursday he was supposed to install it and then all of sudden, he disappeared. We could not contact him and we gave him a demand letter to put it up for today or else suffer the consequences,” she told reporters after the unveiling of the marker.
She said when Roces received the letter last Tuesday, August 20, he called them up and told them that unidentified people took the statue.
“I reserve my doubts,” she said.
“He said it’s there, he was protecting it and then suddenly when it was to be put up (here), he said it’s already gone. So what does he mean by that? Someone stole it? Took it?" See said.
She recalled that Roces joined in all their previous meetings when they were planning of re-unveiling the statue at the private property in Baclaran.
The MRPO head said Roces told them last week that someone was pressuring him to hold the installation of the statue.
“We asked him who? He first said the (Manila) city hall. So, I called Mayor Isko (Moreno) then he backed off saying it was the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). We called the DPWH. They said they didn't (pressure him). We even called Malacanang and since this is a private property, they don’t have an objection to put it here,” Ang-See explained.
She said their group would discuss the next move to be taken, stressing that Roces has the responsibility over the statue since it was under his custody.
They were supposed to pay Roces P50,000 for all the equipment and services needed for bringing and installing the statue at the vicinity of the church, she said.
Ang-See said they already spent almost a million pesos from the first installation of the statue up to its supposed re-installation Sunday.
The Tulay Foundation, a Chinese-Filipino group, commissioned Roces to build the statue, which depicted the Filipino women who became sex slaves by the members of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
The group’s lawyer, Attorney Virginia Lacsa-Suarez, said Roces has to explain what really happened to the statue.
“He cannot just say that unidentified people took Lola away. That’s the only thing he said. But Lola is big, heavy and it’s impossible that it was taken by one person only,” said Suarez.
If the statue was really stolen, she said Roces could have at least reported it to the barangay or police station.
"He should record it, get their names or took photos. But doing nothing and just simply let the people took Lola away or claimed unidentified people took Lola away, that is very irresponsible and unbelievable,” she added.
The re-unveiling of the statue in Baclaran church was initially scheduled on August 18.
With the missing statue, the group only unveiled the marker with inscription to "honor the memories of the suffering and tragic experiences of the thousands of women who became victims of military sexual slavery and violence by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines; to uphold their dignity and courage; and to gain recognition of their struggle for justice.”
The marker also stated that the statue would stand as a reminder that wars of aggression must always be opposed and that sexual slavery and violence should never happen again to any woman, anywhere at anytime.
It also symbolizes the collective action to remember, learn, respect and honor a past that should never be forgotten, also read.
Ang-See said the broken tiles where the podium stands symbolize the broken life of the Lolas, but "put together beautifully because of their courage and resilience." Ella Dionisio/DMS