By ARGYLL GEDUCOS
The United States Embassy in Manila has announced that the US Department of Defense has decided to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.
“Secretary of Defense James Mattis has notified Congress that the Department intends to return the bells of Balangiga to the Philippines,” Trude Raizen, deputy press attache of the embassy, said.
The US National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 gives the US Defense chief the authority to decide on the bells’ transfer. While no specific date was set yet on the war artifact’s return, Raizen said they were assured it will now be processed.
“We’ve received assurances that the bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they deserve,” she said. “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 added.
The bells were reportedly taken from the Balangiga Church in Samar by American troops as war booty from the “Balangiga Massacre” in 1901.
One of the three bells is displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment in Camp Cloud in South Korea while the other can be seen at the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
President Duterte made his first appeal to Washington to return the war booty during his second State-of-the-Nation Address last year.
“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process,” Duterte said.
“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage. Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit ‘yun sa amin,” he added.
Malacañang has welcomed the plan of the United States Department of Defense to return the Balangiga bells to the country.
“We welcome this development as we look forward to continue working with the United States government in paving the way for the return of the bells to the Philippines,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. (with a report from PNA)