US Secretary of Defense James Mattis shakes hands with Philippines Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez at the Bells of Balangiga during a visit on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, (Thursday, Manila time) at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. Mattis was one hand to visit the Bells of Balangiga, which will be planned to be returned to the Philippines.
Blaine McCartney/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP
US Defense chief Mattis: Return of Balangiga bells to help US-Philippine ties
(Associated Press) - November 15, 2018 - 8:32am

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — US Defense Secretary James Mattis said returning three war-trophy church bells to the Philippines will help cement ties between the two countries.

Mattis was at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne on Thursday (Manila time) Mato formally begin the repatriation of the Bells of Balangiga over the next several weeks.

US Army soldiers took the bells after an attack killed 48 American troops in 1901, during the US occupation of the Philippines. Two of the Bells of Balangiga are at the base, and the third is with the US Army in South Korea.

Some veterans and officials in the US oppose returning the bells, calling them memorials to American war dead.

Filipinos revere the bells as symbols of national pride. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly called for their return.

BALANGIGA BELLS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: December 14, 2018 - 1:06pm

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo says Malacañang welcomes the United States' return of the Balangiga bells to the Philippines but adds that it will withhold any further comment on the matter "until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country."

"In the words of the president himself: 'It ain't here until it's here,'" he says as quoted by the state-run news agency PTV.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said he would meet with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on November 15 (Manila time) and would release an official statement after a military ceremony for the repatriation of the Balangiga bells.

The three bells were taken by American soldiers as war booty more than a century ago. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the return of the bells to the Philippine soil in multiple speeches.

Ties of the Philippines with its longtime ally, the US, has soured after criticisms on human rights violations in Duterte's war on drugs.

Duterte had similarly raised rights violations committed by the United States, particularly the killing of Moros at Bud Dajo in 1906.

December 14, 2018 - 1:06pm

So will he or will he not? Malacañang gives mixed signals on whether President Duterte will attend the ceremonial turnover of the Balangiga Bells, which were transported all the way from Wyoming and Okinawa before it arrived in Manila earlier this week.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says Duterte will not attend the Mass at the turnover ceremony. "He has heard all the masses in the world. But he wil be there," Panelo says.

This was after the Palace announced days ago that Duterte would skip the ceremony without giving specific reasons.

The president, over the past couple of years, has been expressive of his unfriendly views toward the United States.

December 13, 2018 - 8:54am

President Rodrigo Duterte changes his mind and will now be attending the turn-over ceremonies of the Balangiga bells to local officials in Samar on Saturday, December 15.

The announcement is made hours after the Palace reiterated Wednesday that the president will be skipping the event due to "pressing matters of governance."

December 12, 2018 - 2:45pm

The Diocese of Borongan and the parishioners of St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish of Balangiga, Eastern Samar launch a website for the historic bells.

On it, they express their gratitude to "individuals and groups who have worked, lobbied and prayed for the eventual return of the Balangiga Bells."

"Please be assured that we will return the bells to their original religious purpose—and care and cherish them as a precious legacy of the profound faith, heroism and courage of our forebears," the text on the website reads.

December 12, 2018 - 2:41pm

The Balangiga bells are displayed for public viewing on Wednesday and Thursday (December 12 and 13) from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

Visitors are advised to observe the dress code and other rules:

  • No sandos
  • No slippers
  • No flash photography
  • No video recording
  • No food and drinks
  • No touching of displays

The bells will be turned over to the parish in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

December 11, 2018 - 11:00am

The Balangiga Bells are home after a long journey from the United States and Japan. They are currently being offloaded from a US Air Force aircraft at the Villamor Air Base.

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