Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday hailed the return of the Balangiga bells, saying she hopes the bells will be used as a symbol in support of democracy and against the tyranny of the Duterte administration.
“The bells last tolled during the Filipinos’ fight against foreign rule and were taken from us after one of our provinces was turned into a ‘howling wilderness’,” she said.
“With the return of the bells, it is my hope that they will toll once again, this time in support of democracy and against an aspiring tyrant who has turned the entire country into a ‘modern howling wilderness’ marked by unabated killings and human rights abuses,” the Akbayan lawmaker said.
Hontiveros said the return of the Balangiga bells, which were seized by American troops as war trophies during the Philippine-American War, marks an important milestone in the history of our country.
“It is a significant step in recognizing and correcting an historical wrong and in putting closure to a painful episode in our past,” she said.
She refused to credit the return of the bells only to Duterte’s repeated demands to the US to give them back.
“We owe the return of the bells to the collective and untiring effort of many people. This includes past presidents and foreign affairs officials, Catholic church leaders, historians, Filipino-Americans and different non-government organizations,” she said.
“It would be wrong and insensitive for the Duterte administration to claim sole credit for the return of the bells and insist that this was the result of its so-called independent foreign policy,” Hontiveros said.
Historians believe one of the bells signaled an attack Filipinos launched against American soldiers stationed in Balangiga town in Samar on September 28, 1901. The attack, reportedly in retaliation for oppressive treatment the Filipinos received, killed 48 American military men.
Accounts then said the foreign soldiers destroyed the town in response, killing thousands of Filipinos in what is now called the Balangiga massacre. The American troops seized all three bells from the Balangiga Church, and a 1557 cannon as war booty.