JUDGE DEL CASTILLO REJECTED A CASE BROUGHT BY WOMEN WHO SOUGHT TO COMPEL THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT TO REQUEST A PUBLIC APOLOGY AND COMPENSATION FROM THE JAPANESE AUTHORITIES FOR THE SEXUAL SLAVERY THAT THEY WERE SUBJECTED TO DURING WORLD WAR TWO.
Isabelita C. Vinuya of Malaya Lolas v. Foreign Affairs Secretary, The Executive Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and others GR No 162230.
Date: 28 April, 2010
Judges: Mr. Del Castillo (writing for majority), Puno C.J., Carpio, Corona, Carpio Morales, Velasco JR, Nachura, Leonard De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Abad, Villarama, JR, Perez and Mendoz JJ.
The petitioners are all members of the Malaya Lolas organization, established for the purpose of providing aid to the victims of rape by Japanese military forces in the Philippines during the Second World War. During WWII, the Japanese army attacked villages and systematically raped the women as part of the destruction of villages. Japanese soldiers foribly seized women and held them in houses or cells, where they were repeatedly raped, beaten and abused by Japanese soldiers.
The women have had their claims for justice repeatedly denied on the basis that compensation has already been fully satified by Japan´s compliance with the Peace Treaty between the Philippines and Japan, concluded over 60 years ago. In this case the women asked the Supreme Court to declare that the refusal to provide compensation for sexual slavery and rape as crimes against humanity and war crimes amounted to an abuse of their rights and further that the Government should take Japan before the International Court of Justice or other international tribunals in order to obtain an apology and compensation.
The Court outlines the historical background of the ´comfort women´ system including the attempts of different victims to obtain justice in various jurisdictions. In all the instances, in Japan and abroad, women have been denied justice for procedural reasons. The Court found that in domestic law, the Executive has the exclusive prerogative to determine whether to uphold the petitioner´s claims against Japan. The Court found that the Peace Treaty compromised individual claims in the collective interest of the free world. The Court further held that the Philippines is not under any international obligations to support the petitioner´s claims.
Following this case, the decision was appealed on the grounds that the judge had plagiarised the works of international scholars without appropriate citing. The judges then found that the lawyers responsible for the appeal were in contempt of court. This decision has far reaching consequences, not only because it denies the victims the reparations and recognition they deserve but also since contempt of court is used by the Court to discipline lawyers thus creating a chilling effect in the search for justice.