MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the scheduled return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines but withheld further comment until the church bells taken by the US army are delivered to the Philippines.
“We welcome any movement towards the return of the the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press statement.
Panelo said President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself has mentioned his desire for the return of the church bells in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) and several other speeches.
“The President himself, in his second State of the Nation Address, expressed his desire for the return of these bells explaining that they form part of our country’s patrimony and they were taken at the cost of bloodshed of thousands of Filipinos,” he added.
Panelo, however, said that it is best to wait until the US fulfills its promise and celebrate only when the church bells are back in the country.
“Given that the possession of the bells have not yet been turned over to the Philippine government, we are withholding any further comment on the matter until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country,” Panelo said.
“In the words of the President himself: ‘It ain’t here until it’s here,’” he added.
Duterte has repeatedly mentioned that there was nothing to talk about with the US unless the church bells are returned.
“Di na naisauli ‘yung Balangiga bells, wala tayong pag-usapan (They haven’t returned the Balangiga bells, we have nothing to talk about),” Duterte said in his speech in Davao City last August.
The President said he understands why American troops took it as a “trophy”, but still found it unacceptable how an entire village in Samar had to be killed.
“They say itong (these) bells was [sic] a trophy. I can understand it…pero kung yan kinuha mo (but when you seize them) and you killed everybody in the town in Samar,” Duterte said.
He acknowledged that it has been more than a century ago but pointed out that time alone was not enough to cure an injustice.
“Now you say, ah Duterte matagal na yun (that was a long time ago). Why? Can passage of time cure an injustice? Just because it was 100 years so it is erased?” Duterte said.
“Tapos yung bells doon andiyan (Then the bells are still there)? The memory still haunts everybody here because it was taken with blood and lives of our brothers and sisters,” he adde
Last August, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) bared that the details of the possible return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines will be made within the year.
The US embassy in Manila earlier said US Defense Secretary James Mattis notified the US Congress of their intention to return the war booty to the Philippines despite opposition from some American lawmakers.
American troops took the bells from the Balangiga Church in Samar as war booty following 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 two are in the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. PNA-northboundasia.com