‘Fight in a thousand Balangiga uprisings’: Reds urge people as groups call upon US to return seized bells

Marking the 116th anniversary of the Balangiga uprising on Thursday, September 28, the National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas (NDF-EV) released a statement urging people to honor the heroes of Balangiga by way of “fight(ing) in a thousand Balangiga uprisings to attain national and social liberation” as groups in Tacloban City and Balangiga town reenact the incident depicting the “victorious armed uprising” against American colonial troops, 116 years ago.

Fr. Salas | Revolutionary leader, Father Santiago Salas of the National Democratic Front Eastern Visayas
Fr. Salas | Revolutionary leader, Father Santiago Salas of the National Democratic Front Eastern Visayas

Annually since 2003, Balangiga townsfolk re-stage the uprising. NDF-EV’s Fr. Salas said that “for many years, the townsfolk of Balangiga have insisted on reenacting the uprising their revolutionary ancestors fought and won, where the climatic scene is casting down of the US flag even though it is officially frowned upon.”

Based on historical accounts, the armed uprising by Balangiga townsfolk that killed at least 48 US occupation soldiers was followed by retaliatory attacks when American forces torched the town and US General Jacob Smith ordered its forces to kill anyone who could bear weapons against them. At least 50,000 armed and unarmed Filipinos were killed while three church bells of Balangiga were seized by US forces and treated as spoils of war.

On Thursday, during the 116th anniversary commemoration of the incident, President Rodrigo Duterte was in attendance where, in his speech, he requested the US congress to give US President Donald Trump the authority to facilitate the return of the Balangiga bells – two of which are displayed in an American military base in the US state of Wyoming and the third one in another American military base in South Korea.

US now a friend?

Opposed to a previous hardline stance criticizing the US for war crimes committed in Balangiga during the Philippine-American War, Duterte changed tune and declared the US as “friendly forces” after all. He cited the US’ assistance to the Philippines’ war in Mindanao after he declared Martial Law to suppress the siege staged by the armed Maute group in Marawi City.

Bayan Eastern Visayas stage mass action in Tacloban City to press for  for return of Balangiga bells. Source (c) Lingganay han Kamatuoran
Bayan Eastern Visayas stages mass action in Tacloban City to press for for return of Balangiga bells. Photo (c) Lingganay han Kamatuoran

But activists in Tacloban City did not spare Duterte of criticisms over his recent policy shifts and declarations, which Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Eastern Visayas (BAYAN-EV) spokesperson Joshua Sagdullas said, is a total shift to a Rightist governance. BAYAN-EV led a public demonstration on Thursday and slammed Duterte for his “triple wars of suppression and death,” Sagdullas adds.

On Friday, the Communist Party of the Philippines reacted to Duterte’s statements saying that it indicated an “intention of securing his place as a puppet of the US imperialists.” The CPP also adds that Duterte is now exhibiting “complete subservience” to US policies.

“Appeased by Duterte’s historical amnesia, the US government has now chosen to keep silent on the campaign of mass murder perpetrated by the Duterte regime in its triple wars of death and destruction. The US has become complicit in Duterte’s fascist crimes not only by its silence, but moreso, by providing it with bombs, helicopter gunships, drones, automatic rifles, bullets and so on, second-hand and all,” the CPP adds.

The NDF-EV also scored Duterte’s “pseudo-patriotism” by allowing US military intervention in the “wholesale destruction of Marawi City and war against the Moro people, while the US backs martial law in Mindanao and the counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan that is causing massive human rights violations against the peasants and national minorities in the countryside.”

More Balangiga-type uprisings

The NDF-EV warned that Balangiga-type uprisings are bound to happen again. “Thus, if the US troops abused Balangiga’s people in their colonial occupation over a hundred years ago, they continue to do so today in the neocolonial regime together with their mercenary troops in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).” Today, according to Salas, the AFP’s so-called “war on terror” and “collateral damage,” may rouse more people to fight back.

NDF EV Fr. Salas

“We salute the brave people of Balangiga and their supporters today in Tacloban and elsewhere for their militant tradition of keeping Filipino revolutionary history alive. We support their continuing anti-imperialist struggle for justice and redress including the return of the Balangiga church bells US troops took as war booty,” Salas ends.#

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Eastern Vista

Eastern Vista is an alternative media organization in Eastern Visayas. Stories of people in the struggle for justice and aid after super typhoon Yolanda inspired its creation in 2014. Eastern Vista is also a co-producer of Lingganay han Kamatuoran, a Waray-based radio magazine program airing since 2003. From Eastern Philippines, Eastern Vista shares the news and views from a people rising.