Duterte plea to US Congress: Give Trump authority to return Balangiga bells
BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar- President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday admitted that it might take years before their demand for the United States to return the historic bells may be realized.
Still, he issued an appeal to the US Congress to grant President Donald Trump authority to return the bells that were taken from this town as war booty 116 years ago.
“I hope the Congress of America will give President Trump the authority to return the bell…we will be happy,” Mr. Duterte said.
On Sept. 28, 1901, the Americans suffered its biggest defeat when the Filipino soldiers sneaked into the camp and killed the US soldiers during the Philippine-American war.
But the US government retaliated and killed all Filipino males aged 10 and above, reducing Samar Island into a howling wilderness.
As war booty, the Americans took the bells in the Balangiga Church which were used earlier by the Filipinos to signal the attack on the American camp.
The President was expected to arrive at 2:30 p.m. but was almost two hours late.
He didn’t witness the reenactment of the historic event held at the Balangiga Central Elementary School due to lack of time.
The President arrived here at 4:11 p.m. and delivered his speech that ran close to an hour at town gymnasium which was attended by local officials, government workers, students and descendants of those who were killed during the bloody encounter.
Mr. Duterte was welcomed by local officials led by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, acting Gov. Ferdinand Marcelo Picardal and town Mayor Randy Graza.
Joining the President were Sec. Christopher “Bong” Go, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and her cousin, former Leyte congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.
There was no explanation given why Marcos and Romualdez were with the President. Their roots are in Leyte.
During his State of the Nation Address last July, President Duterte demanded that the Balangiga bells be returned to the country, the same clamor made by the Philippine government but didn’t have any success.
In his speech, the President admitted that it might take up to 2050 before the bells would be returned due to the opposition of the American war veterans.
He said he was “advised” by the Department of Foreign Affairs not to issue any incendiary statement against the Us government while it was trying to recover the bells now placed at a Navy base in Wyoming.
“I was under advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs that I should temper my language and I should avoid magmura (curse),” he said.
Mr. Duterte is known of using profanities during his speeches and interviews to stress a point.
The President said that his visit to Balangiga was his way to show his deep respect for the bravery of the locals who fought against the Americans 116 years ago.
He added that the residents of Balangiga had showed their desire not to be conquered by any foreign nations and remained independent.
Mr. Duterte also said he planned to confer the descendants of Balangiga heroes the Order of Lapu-Lapu, an honor he recently created and named after local hero of Mactan Island, Cebu.
Mr. Duterte left the town at 5:45 p.m. and was not able to attend the reenactment.
But Contesa Amano, a local teacher and one of the participants, said that while they understood that the President had to leave, they could not help but feel disappointed.
“By watching the play, he could have appreciated more what happened here 116 years ago and of course, the children would just be happy to perform before the President,” she said.
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