President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the United States to return the three church bells stolen by American troops from an Eastern Samar town more than a century ago.
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte said the Balangiga bells “are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process.”
“That is why I say today; give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines,” he said.
“They are part of our national heritage. Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit ‘yun sa amin,” Duterte added.
The bells were taken by American troops from the Balangiga church when it attacked the town in the 1900s.
The Americans were ordered to turn the town into a “howling wilderness” and kill males aged 10 years and older.
Twenty-eight Filipinos died in the attack while 22 were wounded.
In 2017, Duterte demanded that the US return the bells, which he said were “reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers.”
Philippines’ Duterte Demands U.S. Return Symbolic Church Bells
by Naharnet Newsdesk 25 July 2017, 20:05
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the United States return church bells seized by American forces in a bloody campaign more than a century ago, in another blast at his country’s traditional ally.
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American forces took three bells from the Catholic church of Balangiga town on the eastern island of Samar in 1901 as war booty in what historians said was a particularly brutal military operation in the new U.S. colony.
“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” Duterte said at his annual State of the Nation Address on Monday.
“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process.”
Two of the bells are installed at a memorial for U.S. war dead in Wyoming, while the third is with U.S. forces in South Korea.
Some U.S. politicians oppose the dismantling of the memorial.
U.S. embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina gave a non-committal reply on Tuesday to Duterte’s demands.
“We are aware that the bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” she said in an email to AFP.
“We will continue to work with our Filipino partners to find a resolution.” The brutal Samar campaign was launched about a month after Filipino rebels killed 34 U.S. troops in Balangiga
on September 28, 1901, according to a U.S. Army War College research paper.
Seven other American soldiers perished during the escape from Balangiga, and U.S. reinforcements razed the own the day after, it added.
Duterte on Monday repeated a Filipino account of the campaign that the commanding general, Jacob Smith, ordered Samar be turned into a “howling wilderness” and that all Filipino males aged 10 or above be killed.
A 1902 U.S. court-martial convicted Smith of a minor offense in relation to the Samar campaign, while 39 other Americans were separately found guilty of torturing and shooting Filipino prisoners there, the U.S. Army War college research paper said.
However none of them were jailed, according to the paper. The then Philippine president Fidel Ramos first sought but failed to recover the bells during a 1998 Washingtontrip.
Duterte, a self-described socialist, has since his election last year worked to distance Manila from Washington while building closer ties with China and Russia.
The Philippine islands, a Spanish colony for centuries, were ceded to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War. The Philippines gained independence from the Americans in 1946.
Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the U.S. as ties have frayed, and last Friday vowed he would never visit the “lousy” country despite an earlier invitation extended by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Source: Agence France Presse
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