A bronze statue in Manila symbolizing the World War II sex slaves abused by Japanese soldiers has been removed, less than five months after it was erected.
The statue was removed around 8 p.m. local time Friday night. Activists sympathetic to the plight of the former sex slaves gathered at the site Saturday morning and they are expected to issue a statement later Saturday.
The seven-feet bronze sculpture, which depicts a blindfold, grieving woman in Maria Clara traditional Filipiniana gown, was unveiled on Dec. 8 last year along Roxas Boulevard in Manila City.
"This monument is a reminder of the Filipino women who were victims of abuses during the occupation of the Japanese forces from 1942-1945. It took a while before they came out into the open to tell their stories," read the inscription on the monument.
The erection of the statue angered Japan. The Japanese government had protested and demanded that it be taken down.
An alliance of Filipino women GABRIELA and Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Women) had urged the Philippine government to ignore Japan's demand.
GABRIELA is at the forefront of the Filipino women's struggle for freedom and democracy while Lila Pilipina is an organization of wartime sex slaves.
Both groups have demanded justice on behalf of the ageing "comfort women" in the Philippines - an official apology from the Japanese government, just compensation, and inclusion of the "comfort women" issue in Japan's historical accounts and textbooks.
Knocking down the statue would be a setback in the victims' long struggle for justice, the groups said.
The unveiling took place 76 years after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines that started on Dec. 8, 1941, 10 hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese occupation of the Philippines occurred between 1942 and 1945.
It's estimated that up to 200,000 women in their teens from around Asia, including South Korea, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels during that period.
To keep alive the memories of the "comfort women," similar memorial statues in South Korea, China and the United States' San Francisco have been built.