Lola Isabelita Viduya died last November 23, 2021, at age of 89 due to pneumonia, the same day the unfortunate event called “Mapanique Siege” happened in 1944.
Lola Isabelita is a leader of the Malaya Lolas who are victims of military sexual violence and slavery by Japanese military forces in the Philippines during the Second World War.
Born November 1, 1932, Lola Isabelita was 12 years old when the Imperial Japanese Army attacked on November 23, 1944 their barrio Mapaniqui in Candaba, Pampanga, a suspected bailiwick of Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HukBaLaHap).
Their communities were bombed, houses were looted and burned, and civilians were publicly tortured, mutilated, and slaughtered.
Some 100 women and girls, then ranging from 13 to early 20s, were ordered to walk from Mapaniqui to the Bahay na Pula (Red House) in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, which became the site of a mass sexual assault.
Japanese soldiers forcibly seized the women and were “locked inside” the “comfort stations” where they were repeatedly raped, beaten, and abused by Japanese soldiers as part of the destruction of the village.
As a result of the actions of their Japanese tormentors, the “survivors of the wartime female slavery system” have spent their lives in misery, having endured physical injuries, pain and disability, and mental and emotional suffering.
Lola Isabelita is one of the lead petitioners in the case of Vinuya vs Executive Secretary (G.R. No. 162230 April 28, 2010) filed by Malaya Lolas.
The Malaya Lolas claimed that since 1998, they have approached the Executive Department through the DOJ, DFA, and OSG, requesting assistance in filing a claim against the Japanese officials and military officers who ordered the establishment of the “comfort women” stations in the Philippines.
However, officials of the Executive Department declined to assist the Lolas, and took the position that the individual claims of the comfort women for compensation had already been fully satisfied by Japan’s compliance with the Peace Treaty between the Philippines and Japan.
The Supreme Court dismissed the case noting that it is not within their power to order the Executive Department to take up the Malaya Lolas’ cause. Theirs is only the power to urge and exhort the Executive Department to take up the Lolas’ cause.
The Court affirmed that ‘rape, sexual slavery, torture, and sexual violence are morally reprehensible as well as legally prohibited under contemporary international law’, but stated that ‘the practice of states does not yet support the present existence of an obligation to prosecute international crimes.
“Of course, we greatly sympathize with the cause of petitioners, and we cannot begin to comprehend the unimaginable horror they underwent at the hands of the Japanese soldiers. We are also deeply concerned that, in apparent contravention of fundamental principles of law, the petitioners appear to be without a remedy to challenge those that have offended them before appropriate fora. Needless to say, our government should take the lead in protecting its citizens against violation of their fundamental human rights,” the Supreme Court said.
It has been 76 years since the war ended on August 15, 1945, and yet the Japanese government refuses to recognize its official accountability to the victims of sex slavery.
About 200,000 women from Korea, China, Burma, New Guinea, and the Philippines. were held in captivity and many thousands more were raped as part of one of the largest operations of sexual violence in modern history.
It was in the late 1990s that the Lolas came out as part of Lila Filipina and Malaya Lolas to tell the world about this inhuman practice of the Japanese during the war.
I personally met Lola Isabelita in July 2019 during the medical mission in Mapaniqui of Flowers for Lolas, an alliance supporting the campaign on the issue of WWII victims of sexual violence and slavery.
“Rape is still rape whether it was done for days, for months, or for years. The effect is the same. It destroyed our bodies, our sense of self. We lived in shame for years,” said Isabelita Viduya of Malaya Lolas.
She lamented in an earlier NPR interview that the Malaya Lolas received no compensation from the Asian Women’s Fund as they were not considered as “comfort women” because they were not held or abused over an extended period.
Another Lola, Remedios Tecson, died March 2021 at the age of 93
The recent deaths of Lola Isabelita and other WWII women victims of sexual slavery and violence are manifestations that the survivors are dying without receiving a formal apology and legal compensation from Japan.
Justice has not been given to women such as Lola Isabelita. Their fight for an unequivocal public apology, accurate historical inclusion, and just compensation continues up to this day.
( Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786).