By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte recently said he could never have “good rapport” with the United States unless it returns the church bells seized from Balangiga, Samar more than a century ago.
The President insisted that the church bells belong to the Filipino nation, saying they form a “sentimental part of the journey towards nation-building.”
“Do not say, ‘Oh, it’s in the past.’ Do not say that. The bells would always remind us that it is ours and you got it at the expense of the lives and the blood of the Filipino people,” Duterte said before an assembly of local government executives in Cebu City last Saturday.
“Until and unless you return it and for as long as I am President, there can never be a good rapport between us,” he added.
The church bells were taken by American soldiers as war trophy during the 1901 Balangiga massacre where a number of Filipinos and Americans were killed. The bells, currently in the possession of the US Army, are now part of a memorial for the troops killed by Filipinos.
The President said he understands the Americans took the bells as war booty but was hurt that it was done after killing Filipinos. He recalled that invading American troops were directed to reduce Balangiga “into a land of howling winds.”
“We understand that if there is war, there is always the war booty…We understand that because we also do that. Pero ang problema diyan sa Balangiga. Diyan ako nasasaktan [But the problem in Balangiga] is they got it at the expense of so many lives and in a bloodbath. That’s why I am hurt],” Duterte said.
The President called for the return of the Balingaga bells while discussing his strained relations with the United States for allegedly meddling in domestic affairs.
He admitted that he has “no rapport” with the United States since it has insulted and belittled the Filipino nation.
“Immediately after I was elected, you adopted the garbage of the yellow and continued your attacks at sinakyan ninyo, and even your President criticized me in a press briefing in Washington D.C.,” he said.
“Pagtingin kasi ninyo sa amin maliit kami [You belittle us]. You just treat us like, you know, parang one of the poorest sections of New York, Harlem there o… Mga g*** kayo [You’re stupid],” he said.
Duterte then challenged his western critics to go to the United Nations if they have complaints about his governance.
“You might not like my style, my language, I might be uncouth, but I am a President of a country and if you want to attack me, go to the United Nations. There is the proper forum there,” he said.
He also asked the US to respect the Filipinos and avoid judging people “as if you’re always correct because you’re always wrong.”
“All that we want is respect. All that we want is for you not to overrate yourself — you Americans and do not underestimate other people,” he said.