Saying that the “Bells of Balangiga” are a part of Filipino culture, Senate President Koko Pimentel III today expressed support for the call of President Duterte for the United States to return the centuries-old artifacts and other war booties taken by the US soldiers 116 years ago in Samar.
The President called for the return of the Bells of Balangiga during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday before a joint session of Congress at the full-house Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
“The Bells of Balangiga are important to us because they are a part of our history,” said Pimentel of the artifacts taken as war booties by American soldiers who were sent to cleanse the town of “rebel troops” fighting against US occupation in 1901.
He said the war trophies from Balangiga included two church bells with the Franciscan Order emblems dated 1863 and 1889, respectively, and an English-made cannon dated 1557, now on display at the Trophy Park of the F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Pimentel said the fourth artifact, a small church bell with the Franciscan Order emblem dated 1896, is with the 9th US Infantry Regiment in Camp Red Club in South Korea. He said Filipinos are asking for the return of the Bells of Balangiga not for their commercial value, but for their cultural value and their ecclesiastical nature, adding that the artifacts are among those listed exempted from the spoils of war like other cultural objects.
He said the passage of more than a century after the so-called “Balangiga Massacre” where US soldiers killed hundreds of civilians in a counterattack, should suffice to mute the anguish, ease the anger and dull the pain in the hearts of the heirs of the protagonists on both sides of the war.
“And so we ask for the return of the Bells of Balangiga. For the return of the bells will help restore things to the status quo ante and help ease the hidden tensions that haunt the heirs of the Balangiga rebels and the American soldiers,” said Pimentel.
He said the much-sought American gesture would not only mean a closure of the wounds of the Filipino-Amercian War but it would also herald a new era of peace and closer cooperation between the governments of the Philippines and of the United States.
On September 28, 2011, Pimentel filed Senate Resolution No. 610, reiterating the call for the return by the United States of America of the Bells of Balangiga and other artifacts and war booties. Then Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. authored the first resolution passed by the Senate in 2002.