By Ellson A. Quismorio
An administration lawmaker said Friday that the county would love to see President Rodrigo Roa Duterte personally ask United States President Donald Trump for the return of the controversial Balangiga Bells to the country when he arrives to attend the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) Summit here.
“Yes, we would love it if the President would do that,” AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Rodel Batocabe said, ahead of ASEAN Summit and related meetings next week in Manila where the two leaders are scheduled to have a one-on-one meeting.
“The President is just being consistent and true to what he declared in his last SONA (State of the Nation Address) if he brings up the issue of Balangiga Bells to Trump…but I don’t expect it,” added Batocabe.
In his second Statement of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, Duterte called on the US – a longtime Philippine ally – to return the church bells that they took as war trophy over a century’s ago.
The church bells were taken by the US Army from the town church of Balangiga, Eastern Samar in the Philippines in 1901. This was after the American troops massacred local residents as a form of retaliation for a bloody ambush led by Filipinos.
The bells are being kept by the US government in two locations; one is with the famed 9th Infantry Regiment at their base in Camp Red Cloud, South, Korea, while two others are on a former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
It was Batocabe who first revived calls for the Americans to give back the stolen bells, doing so last January or just weeks before billionaire businessman Trump ascended to the White House.
The Bicol solon, leader of the 46-member Party-List Coalition in the Lower Chamber, said he also doesn’t believe that Trump would voluntarily address the issue on the bells. He called such move a “diplomatic coup de grace.”
He went on to explain just how important the bells are to Filipinos.
“The issue may seem trivial but for us, Filipinos, who are students of history, those bells symbolize the plunder, savagery and barbarism of the Americans during the Fil-American war, but which were effectively erased in our national consciousness as a result of the mass education programs of the Americans,” Batocabe said.
“For so long, we Filipinos always consider Americans as our big brother, and love everything that is American. Unfortunately, such affection is unrequited.
“The return, therefore, of the Balangiga Bells is the least that the Americans can do to soothe our shabby treatment then and now,” he further said.
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