Filipino war veterans would describe it life under the Japanese was anything but peaceful. Thousands of them stood witness to oppression and suffering through the years of colonial occupation under Japan. All their stories were spoken against a backdrop of violent subjugations, each one bringing back old wounds and reliving some of their worst nightmares. For most Filipinos, it was a harsh and fearsome reality filled with terror and abuse. Never in the history of the Philippines had such brutality been committed against the dignity of the human person. For this very reason, the Japanese Occupation is another essential facet that must be examined through the lens of Human Rights. The bombing of Manila on December 8, 1941 marked the beginning of what was known to be the one of the darkest and most traumatic ages in Philippine history. At the start of the Second World War, the Filipinos were unprepared for the sudden attacks in the capital. A flood of people were forced to hurriedly evacuate the city, for fear of more attacks. War was indeed at hand. To avoid further damages, Manila was declared an Open City. What began with a surprise attack in Manila, stretched to 4 years of Japanese colonial regime. The new colonizers justified war and violence as their means of empowering fellow Asian races to finally put an end Western colonialism. The Japanese invoked nationalism and revolution and openly acted towards eliminating American influence in the Philippines. The Japanese strongly believed in “Asian for Asians” which provided space for Filipino leaders to serve in the government. But veering away from this puppet government as well as from the interests of the elite, we see a contrastingly different picture of the Filipino people. Certain rights were curtailed as the First Proclamation of the Imperial Army was announced 1942. Under this proclamation, all Filipinos were to obey whatever the Administration might rule or decree. It was strictly prohibited to disseminate news, statements or rumors against the Japanese Imperial forces. Any one found guilty would immediately be sentenced to death. Likewise, any act of sabotage or personal assault against any Japanese member of the Armed Forces would be punishable by death. Another decree implemented by the Japanese Military Administration was compulsory identification card issued to the Filipinos. They facilitated greater control over the population by imposing the registry as obligation impossible to evade. There were also occasions of unannounced acts of setting bounds to an area in any given town or city for purposes of search, seizure and arrest. These instances reflect a few of the violations committed against the basic rights of persons. But it was a recurring theme among the Filipinos common experience under the Japanese. Different memoirs of the Filipino and Japanese alike mirror the atrocities endured during this era. They spoke of trauma caused by threat, violence and humiliation. Filipino war veterans described how their daily life was one of flight and terror, while some Japanese soldier refer to the war as a nightmare of their past. Former Japanese soldier Daizaburo Ohera admits to still having nightmares of guns and bayonets, of killing and death. With respect to these accounts of the Japanese occupation, three of the main themes highlighted by this paper are (a) the Death March of Bataan, (b) Guerilla subjugation, and (c) the Filipina comfort women. a.
Bataan Death March
It had already been many months of anguished battle with the enemy when Bataan fell and surrendered. Thousands of Filipinos and Americans troops became Prisoners of War. The Bataan Death March, as it has come to be called, forced these Prisoners of War to march from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando Pampanga, to Capas, Tarlac and head to an even farther Camp O’Donnell. The death march took 6 days of walking under fatigue and the scorching heat of the tropical sun. As the...
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