Tracing source of false story on Bam Aquino ‘taking credit’ for Balangiga bells

December 18, 2018 - 3:59 PM
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Senator Bam Aquino fact-check story Interaksyon
Senator Bam Aquino debunked claims that he took credit for the return of the Balangiga bells. (Facebook/Bam Aquino)

Senator Bam Aquino disproved a story that claimed he was taking credit for the historic return of the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

When the bells were brought home on December 11, a dubious website called Insider Philippines published an article that states Aquino saying:

“Partly, may konting kontribusyon naman po ako sa Balangiga Bells.”

Screenshot from Insider Philippines
(Screenshot by Interaksyon from Insider Philippines website)

It was soon posted on several Facebook group pages and went rounds across the platform.

Aquino denounced the story as “fake news” on Twitter.

“We have not released any statement or comment on the Balangiga Bells, nor have we been interviewed about the issue. These are, once again, fake quotes!” he said on December 14.

The non-profit fact-checking news organization VERA Files also marked the narrative as fake news after running a fact-check on it.

Aside from Insider Philippines, VERA Files found that the Facebook page “The Filipino News” also posted the same fabricated information.

It included a photo of Aquino it purportedly got from the senator’s office juxtaposed to this statement: “Sa wakas! Balangiga Bells naibalik na (Finally! The Balangiga Bells have returned)!”

As of writing, this post had been deleted from the page.

Based on the VERA Files probe, the same story was also published in the sketchy pro-administration pages “Showbiz Government,” “Bayan Ko Ph” and “President Rody Duterte Supporters International.”

The cousin of former President Benigno Aquino III had been the target of many false reports in 2018.

Last October, VERA Files and Aquino debunked a viral report accusing him of using the rehabilitation of Boracay Island and Pasig River for his election propaganda.

The Balangiga bells

During the Philippine-American war, Gen. Jacob H. Smith ordered US troops to kill all the people older than ten years old in the town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar. They then took the Balangiga bells as war trophies.

This tragedy is known in history as the Balangiga Massacre of 1901. Since then, the three bells were separated from one another.

Two of them were displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in the state of Wyoming in the United States, while the third one is in South Korea.

There had been many attempts and requests to return the stolen bells to the Philippines. However, a US law titled “A Veterans Memorial Physical Integrity Act of 1998” barred the return of all war memorial objects.

In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte urged US Ambassador Sung Kim to make the same initiative again.

The bells finally tolled again in Samar last December 15. It was the first after 117 years. Duterte was present during the turnover ceremonies.

Replicas of the bells will reportedly replace their place in the Wyoming memorial.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri proposed for one of the bells to be displayed at the National Museum in Manila.

Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines opposed this with the reason that these are considered sacramentals or sacred artifacts.