By Genalyn Kabiling and Francis Wakefield
Malacañang welcomes the US government’s imminent return of the Balangiga bells to the country, saying these church bells form part of the nation’s patrimony.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, however, said they would withhold further comment until all the church bells are delivered to the country.
“We welcome any movement towards the return of the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines. The President himself, in his second State of the Nation Address, expressed his desire for the return of these bells explaining that they form part of our country’s patrimony and they were taken at the cost of bloodshed of thousands of Filipinos,” Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo maintained that all three church bells, taken by the US troops in Balangiga, Eastern Samar as a war booty in 1901, must be returned to the country.
“Given that the possession of the bells have not yet been turned over to the Philippine government, we are withholding any further comment on the matter until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country,” he said.
“In the words of the President himself: ‘It ain’t here until it’s here,” he added.
Panelo was reacting to reports quoting Rolando Borrinaga of the Committee on Historical Research of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) about the looming repatriation of the two Balangiga bells from a US base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The third church bell, currently placed at a US Army museum in South Korea, is also reportedly expected to be brought back to the country. There was no mention however on the delivery date of the church bells.
In his second State of the Nation Address last July, the President asked anew the United States to return the bells taken by American soldiers more than a hundred years ago. He said the church bells belong to Filipinos and form part of national heritage.
Duterte previously declared that he could never have “good rapport” with the United States unless it gives back the Balangiga bells.
The US Department of Defense has reportedly notified Congress about its plan to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines following repeated demands from President Duterte for Washington to return the bells taken during the Philippine-US war.
Defense Secretary DelfinLorenzanaon Tuesday said he would refrain from making any statements with regards to the Balangiga bells following reports on their looming return to the country from a United States base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
In a text message, Lorenzana said until he sees the bells in the country, then that’s the time he will comment on the matter.
“None, until I see those bells in the Philippines,” Lorenzana said.
“On the bells, silent muna tayo (we will remain silent) until they are here,” he added.
Department of National Defense (DND) Spokesman ArsenioAndolong also said that they don’t have any statement regarding the bells at the moment.
Dr. Rolando Borrinaga of the Committee on Historical Research of National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), was earlier quoted as saying that a ceremony will be held on November 15 (Manila time) at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the repatriation of the Balangiga bells.