“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines.” This was President Rodrigo Duterte’s upfront remarks to the United States during his second state of the nation address last year with US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim among the audience. This, however, is just a pretention according to the National Democratic Front (NDF) Eastern Visayas.
A year after Duterte demanded the return of the three bronze church bells, the Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez announced that the country will be able to retrieve the bells after getting “quite a number of supporters and friends in Washington DC” who are trying to repeal the law prohibiting the retreival of the “war booty” passed by the veterans in Wyoming.
Aside from being war trophies, the historic Balangiga bells symbolizes the martyrdome of Balangigan-ons in the Samar island on 1901 for rising up against the imperialist US who invaded their land and killed at least 48 US soldiers which was followed by General Jacob Smith’s mandate to kill anyone who could bear weapons against them, torching down at least 50,000 armed and unarmed Filipinos.
Return of ‘war booty’ for another war
With the news regarding the return of the Balangiga bells, the NDF Eastern Visayas called Duterte a “traitor” for using Balangiga bells to buy US arms against his very people in his counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Kapayapaan.
In a speech to his military men in Davao City last Friday, Duterte stressed that unless the US returns the Balangiga bells to the Philippines, there would be no discussion with the high-ranking officials of the United States regarding the procurement of arms and vehicles.
“If they did not return the Balangiga bells, there is nothing to talk about,” Duterte pressed. “…the memory still haunts everybody here because it was taken with blood and lives of our brothers and sisters,” he added.
In a statement released yesterday, NDF Eastern Visayas spokesperson Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas said that Duterte’s statement “is not only an insult to the memory of the people uprising in Balangiga against the US war of aggression to colonize the Philippines but is also treasonous for conniving with a foreign power against the Filipino people in the ongoing civil war.”
“GRP President Duterte sometimes pretend to be a patriot standing up to the US when he is in fact just a puppet playing with the strings of his master,” Salas reiterated.
Whose long time ally?
NDF Eastern Visayas recalled that Duterte has been compliant to the US’ violations in the West Philippine Sea together with China and has been working hand-in-hand with US in his all-out-war against the Moro people and the New People’s Army as evidenced by the use of drones and the transformation of Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao to what they called as the ‘modern version of Samar’s howling wilderness in 1901.’
“Pretending sometimes to be against the US but deferring mainly to it, Duterte is not averse to Russia and China only as a supplicant for more sources of foreign borrowing in an increasingly multipolar world,” NDF Eastern Visayas said, calling Duterte a minion of of US imperialism.
Return the bells!
NDF Eastern Visayas calls for the return of the Balangiga bells to the country as a tribute to the efforts of the Filipino and American people who have been one in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist solidarity citing the Mark Twain and the Anti-Imperialist Leagues as examples.
“It is well if the Balangiga bells will be returned to address in a symbolic manner the historical grievance of the brutal colonization of the Philippines from 1899-1946 by US imperialism,” NDF Eastern Visayas said.
“We look forward to the return of the Balangiga bells to toll once more the continuing struggle of the Filipino people to be free,” the group concluded.