Filipino WWII ‘comfort woman’ Lola Hilaria passes away at 97

March 21, 2023 - 12:35 PM
Photo shows Hilaria Bustamante, one of the Filipino "comfort woman" during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines (Lila Pilipina/Facebook)

Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual abuse. 

Another Filipino “comfort woman,” who has long been fighting for justice, died on Sunday evening. 

Hilaria Viray Bustamante, 97, passed away in her home in Cavite due to old age, according to Lila Pilipina. The latter is an advocacy group for Filipina women who were victims of sexual violence by Japanese soldiers during World War II. 

Report said that in 1943, Hilaria then 16, was on her way home to help cook lunch when Japanese soldiers dragged her into their vehicle. She was brought to the Japanese garrison where she was raped.

“My body was in such pain. Every time I struggled, they would hit me,” she was quoted as saying.

Hilaria kept this horrendous experience to herself until she joined Lila Pilipina.  

The group also reported that Hilaria was one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government in 1993. The case was later on dismissed by the Japanese Supreme Court. 

Despite this, Hilaria continued to demand for justice until her last breath. 

“Lola Hilaria’s death is one more basis for Japan to render the apology that Filipino ‘comfort women’ have long been asking for,” Lila Pilipina told Interaksyon.

“This issue will not go away even when the lolas have all gone because the historical and legal records and the lolas’ testimonies are all there, pointing to Japan’s accountability for the wartime crimes it committed,” the group added.

The group also asked the Philippine government to grant official recognition of the lolas and to have the political will to finally stand up to Japan and defend the honor and dignity of all victims of Japanese wartime crimes.

Last March 8, the United Nations Women’s Rights Committee ruled that the Philippines violated the rights of Filipino “comfort women” by failing to provide reparation, social support, and recognition commensurate with the harm suffered.

The UN body said the country has breached its obligations under the convention. It demanded the Philippine government provide full reparation, including material compensation, and an official apology for the continuous discrimination.

“This case demonstrates that minimizing or ignoring sexual violence against women and girls in war and conflict situations is, indeed, another egregious form of violation of women’s rights. We hope that the Committee’s Decision serves to restore human dignity for all of the victims, both deceased and living,” said Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women member Marion Bethel.

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