MANILA – On the 116th anniversary of the attack of Filipino revolutionaries on American troops in the Municipality of Balangiga in Eastern Samar, a group is echoing previous calls made for the return of the Balangiga bells by the United States to the Philippines.
The Lingganay ng Kalayaan (Bells of Freedom) Campaign Movement for the Return of the Balangiga Bells and Historical Justice against U.S. Wars of Aggression on Wednesday demanded the return of the Balangiga bells, and sought an official apology from the United States for its “crimes against the Filipino people” when it colonized the country and during “succeeding wars of aggression.”
The convenors of the movement include Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago, historians Dr. Rey Imperial and Dr. Francis Gealogo, Archie Amano (a descendant of the Amanos of Balangiga), Roy Montes of Ugop Waraynon, and Cedric Bermiso of Philippine Normal University publication The Torch.
On September 28, 1901, the Balangiga bells were used as a signal by Filipino revolutionaries in attacking American soldiers who were part of Company C of the 9th US Infantry. Almost every American soldier was killed in “one of the most monumental defeats” the Americans suffered under the hands of the Filipinos.
The Americans retaliated upon the instructions of Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith, who told his troops to “Kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better it will please me.”
Thus, the Americans burned Balangiga and killed everyone over 10 years old in what has become known as the Balangiga Massacre.
“Such was the barbarity of his campaign that even the American colonial government considered it excessive, and for it, General Smith was eventually court-martialled and indicted,” according to the advocacy group.
The Americans then seized the Balangiga bells as war booty.
Even during the time of former President Fidel V. Ramos, the Philippines had already asked the US government, then under former President Bill Clinton, to return the bells.
In 2002, Senator Nene Pimentel filed Resolution No. 393, which urged the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to hold negotiations with the US for the return of the bells.
Five years later, Senator Manny Villar also filed a resolution for the return of the bells.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate and Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone also filed during the 17th Congress House Bill No. 412 and House Bill No. 1142, respectively, to recover the bells.
President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, said during his second State of the Nation Address, addressing the Americans, “Give us back those Balangiga bells,” insisting that the artifacts belonged to the Philippines and were part of the Filipinos’ national heritage.
Meanwhile, the Lingganay ng Kalayaan Campaign Movement recalled that during American colonization, “Mass murder, conflagration, rape, and abuse were done on a massive scale. This did not only occur on Samar—Batangas, Ilocos, Albay, Marinduque, Cebu, Jolo, Cotabato, Laguna, and other towns across the country also bore the full force of American aggression.
The war booty was not limited to the bells of Balangiga; the Americans also took important revolutionary documents, church relics, and personal possessions of Filipino citizens,