Duterte on comfort woman statue: 'You can place it somewhere else'
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte stressed on Sunday, April 29, that the controversial comfort woman statue along Roxas Boulevard can be placed "somewhere else," as he claimed it is not his government's policy "to antagonize other nations."
"Whose initiative was it, I really do not know. I didn't even know that it exists. But it has created somehow a bad, you know... You can place it somewhere else," Duterte said in Davao City on Sunday morning, upon his arrival from a regional summit in Singapore.
The statue, along with two others, was removed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Friday evening, April 27. In a statement, the DPWH said this is "to give way" to the improvement of the Roxas Boulevard Baywalk Area, which includes the installation of concrete drainage pipes and footbridges along the thoroughfare.
"If there is what you would call a memorial for injustice committed at one time, it's all right. But do not use... It is not the policy of government to antagonize other nations," added Duterte.
Duterte made this comment even as he repeatedly slams the United States and the European Union over a host of issues. One of these is the 1906 Bud Dajo massacre, which saw American colonial soldiers killing Moros in Sulu.
Duterte said on Sunday, however, that if the comfort woman statue is erected on private property, "fine, we will honor it."
He also maintained that having the statue is part of freedom of expression. Nonetheless, Duterte noted Japan's reparation efforts since the end of World War II.
"Masakit kasi pa na ulit-ulitin mo pa ulit. (It's still painful to keep on repeating it.) And you start to imagine how they were treated badly. But Japan has apologized to the Filipinos. And they have certainly made much more in terms of reparations," he said.
Women's group Gabriela has blasted its removal, calling it "a foul insult on hundreds of Filipina sex slaves victimized under the Japanese occupation."
The issue of "comfort women" remains a sensitive topic for Japan, one of the Philippines' allies. The statue inaugurated in December 2017 drew a complaint from Japan. (READ: Japan's discomfort with history and the PH dilemma) – Rappler.com