Duterte tells US: Give back Balangiga bells

Mer Layson - Philstar.com
Duterte tells US: Give back Balangiga bells

President Duterte holds a a photograph of the First Battle of Bud Dajo massacre showing American soldiers with the bodies of Filipino Muslims killed in Bud Dajo, a volcanic crater on the island of Jolo in 1906. KRIZJOHN ROSALES, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday demanded the return of bells taken by US troops from a town in Samar in 1901 as he lashed out again at the United States.
"Give us back those Balangiga bells," Duterte told the US through Ambassador Sung Kim, who was in the session hall of the House of Representatives, where the president gave his State of the Nation Address. Kim, whose face was flashed on screen during Duterte's tirade, did not respond and his face betrayed no emotion.
Duterte was referring to the church bells of Balangiga town in Eastern Samar, which US troops took as spoils of the Philippine-American War.
The bells were part of a signal for Filipinos to attack American troops in town on September 28, 1901. The attack, which happened early in the morning, left at least 48 members of the 9th US Infantry Regiment dead.
In response to the attack, American troops set fire to the town and killed around 2,500 Filipinos after US General Jacob Smith ordered his men to turn the island of Samar into a "howling wilderness."
"They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage," the president said, adding the massacre of Filipinos is a "painful memory" for the country.
According to a Reuters report in 2013, two of the bells are in F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and another is in South Korea.
The Philippines has been trying to have the bells returned since Fidel Ramos was president. A petition to have the bells returned was revived in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Samar was among the islands devastated by the supertyphoon.
In 2016, the US Military Academy at West Point sent back a bell also taken in 1901 to the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Bauang, La Union, according to a report on Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for the US military community.
"Bells were routinely taken as souvenirs, but at times they were removed for a military purpose – to prevent them from being melted down to make weapons," Stars and Stripes said.

Balangiga and Bud Dajo

The president had talked about the Balangiga massacre last September while speaking before members of the Philippine Air Force. 
"That was the time that ten years old and above, was massacred by the Americans, and got the bell(s), and until now, they hijacked it, stole it and never returned it to us," Duterte said then.
The reference to Balangiga, and to the Bud Dajo massacre in Sulu in 1906, were in response to the US raising concerns over the government's war on drugs and potential human rights violations that could happen during the campaign.
Duterte again referred to those concerns on Monday, mentioning an unnamed US State Department official whom he said talked "as if he were smarter than me." The president also again mentioned Obama, whom he has been criticizing since last year, during his SONA on Monday.
A week before the SONA, a panel of US Congress held an inquiry into the Philippines' war on drugs.
During his SONA, Duterte impersonated both Obama and US President Donald Trump in caricatures of American accents.
The performance was met with applause in the session hall. — Jonathan de Santos

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