President Duterte said he could never have “good rapport” with the US unless it returned the Balangiga Bells, taken as war booty from Samar in 1901.
The president reiterated his belief that the church bells belonged to the Filipino nation, as they formed a “sentimental part of the journey towards nation-building”.
“Do not say, ‘Oh, it’s in the past.’ Do not say that,” he said. “The bells would always remind us that it is ours and you got it at the expense of the lives and the blood of the Filipino people.” The president was addressing an assembly of local government executives in Cebu City yesterday (Saturday, May 19).
“Until and unless you return it and for as long as I am president, there can never be a good rapport between us,” he added.
The church bells were taken by American soldiers as war trophies following the Balangiga massacre at the turn of the last century. The bells are now part of a US Army memorial for the soldiers killed by Filipino insurgents.
The president said he understood the Americans took the bells as war booty but was hurt that it was done after killing so many Filipinos. He recalled that American troops were directed to reduce Balangiga “into a land of howling winds” as revenge for the massacre.
“We understand that if there is war, there is always the war booty…We understand that because we also do that. But the problem in Balangiga is they got it at the expense of so many lives and in a bloodbath. That’s why I am hurt,” he said.
The president called for the return of the bells while discussing his strained relations with the US for allegedly meddling in domestic affairs.
He admitted that he has “no rapport” with the United States since it had insulted and belittled the Filipino nation.
“Immediately after I was elected, you adopted the garbage of the yellow and continued your attacks and even your President criticised me in a press briefing in Washington DC,” he said. “You belittle us. You’re stupid.
“All that we want is respect. All that we want is for you not to overrate yourself and do not underestimate other people.”
As we reported last September, America’s ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, has backed calls for the bells to be repatriated.