Senators welcome return of Balangiga bells

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MANILA — Several senators on Tuesday welcomed reports that the Balangiga bells would soon be returned to the country after more than a century of being held as war trophies by the United States military.

The three church bells were seized by the US Army from Balangiga, Eastern Samar in 1901 during the Philippine-American war.

The bells were taken because one had been supposedly used by Filipino insurgents to signal the attack on American soldiers, killing an estimated 48 and wounding another 22.

In response, US soldiers massacred thousands of Filipinos in the town, including women and children.

Two of the bells are at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming while the third bell is at a US Army museum in South Korea.

President Rodrigo Duterte has called for the return of the church bells during his 2017 State of the Nation Address.

Asked on the matter, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said “it’s about time.”

He said since President Duterte’s call last year, there have been constant dialogues between Philippine and US officials for the eventual return of the bell.

“I know for a fact na talagang planong ibalik sa atin yun, parang sign of goodwill (there was really a plan to return them to us as a sign of goodwill). As I said, it’s about time.” he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the return of the bells is a joyous occasion for all Filipinos.

In a statement, he said the bells’ return would restore a severed historical connection between a proud people and their brave forebears.

“After more than a century, the descendants will now be able to hear the bells, which summoned their ancestors to prayers, to safety, to work, and to the defense of their land,” he said.

Recto added that the bells are not just mere church artifacts, as they also serve as a “reminder of courage, which when rung will give out the sound of freedom.”

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III also expressed happiness with the return of the Balangiga bells, noting that his father, former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr., has also been continuously asking the US government to return the bells.

“I am happy that the Balangiga bells are about to be returned. My father has long called for their return and I have also called for their return,” he said.

More importantly, he said, the return of the bells would remove a constant source of irritation between the Philippines and the US.

“This is an irritant in Philippine-US relations. Good that we can get rid of this irritant,” Pimentel said. –PNA

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