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US veterans’ group approves Balangiga bells return

Ding Cervantes - The Philippine Star
US veteransâ group approves Balangiga bells return
In an email to The STAR, Guy Hilbero, executive officer of the 26th US Cavalry of the Philippine Scouts Memorial Regiment, said the American Legion rescinded a 2016 resolution of the Wyoming Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), which sought to keep two of the bells at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
AP / Neal Ulevich, File

CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines — The American Legion, a worldwide organization of US war veterans, approved during its national convention last week a resolution allowing the return of two Balangiga bells seized by American troops as war booty during the 1900s.

In an email to The STAR, Guy Hilbero, executive officer of the 26th US Cavalry of the Philippine Scouts Memorial Regiment, said the American Legion rescinded a 2016 resolution of the Wyoming Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), which sought to keep two of the bells at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The VFW resolution prevented the US government from returning the bells taken from a church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar. 

“The Philippines is predominantly a Catholic nation where church bells play a very important role... as well as reflective of their national patrimony representing the very fabric of their cultural heritage and history... because the bells were bought and paid for the parishioners of San Lorenzo de Martir, to return the bells would be the honorable and right thing to do and result in national jubilation,“ the resolution stated.

President Duterte called on the US to return the Balangiga bells, saying items that form part of the national heritage of Filipinos should not be taken away from them.

Dennis Wright, an officer of the VFW, said the resolution approved by the American Legion “clearly demonstrates” the support of the US veteran community for the return of the bells.

In a memorandum to the US National Security Commission, American Legion officer Jeff Steele said the VFW also approved a resolution last July in favor of returning the bells to the Philippines.

Last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis notified the US Congress that the defense department plans to return the bells to the Philippines, but the date has yet to be determined.

AMERICAN LEGION

BALANGIGA BELLS

JIM MATTIS

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