Bring back our bells! Respect our sovereignty! US, out now!
“Give us back those Balangiga bells,” Duterte mentioned in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24, 2017. These bells acted as “trophies” seized by the US army to scar the infamous massacre that happened during the Philippine – American war where 50, 000 Filipinos were brutally slaughtered.
On the 116th year since the day of the Balangiga uprising against the imperialist US, progressive and patriotic groups underscored that the country should not just call for the return of the bells, but should continue forwarding the reason why the bells tolled that day – to revolt against the fascist US.
Why did the bells stop tolling?
In 1901, the bells were taken as war booty after the uprising of the Filipino guerillas where 48 US troopers died with 22 more other in Balangiga wounded during a raid in a US Army encampment. This prompted the US to send US Army General Jacob (Howling Jake) Smith to order a retaliation where he commanded the US troops to kill every male Filipino, 10 years of age and above, which led to the bloodbath of 50, 000 Filipinos.
The bells that symbolize our folks’ heroism are presently stored in US military bases, two are in a US Army base in Cheyenne while another is in the museum of a US military facility in South Korea to showcase their cruelness.
Long-time call answered with rhetoric
There has been a consistent effort of the Philippine congress to recover the bells. Bayan Muna Party list, in fact, is one of the firsts to submit a resolution calling for the recovery of bells, to recover the bells. This year, President Duterte himself “begs” US to bring back the bells to Balangiga.
US, however, gives this nation no single bell, but rhetorical statements we heard for years. Former US officials and US war veterans think that they should not return the bells as they consider it as a proof of their “bogus victory”. Not even an official statement recognizing their brutal act and apology was ever released. Worse, they’ve maintained their economic, political, military and cultural influence in the country through strong ties with the state and its ruling elite.
Duterte’s call for the return of Balangiga bells does not necessarily mean that he is either patriotic or anti-US. His “shallow militancy” to project a false rebellion against his bosses is plainly for his self-interests.
Let us be reminded that the administration continued the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty along with the unequal military treaties just like Visiting Forces Agreement. In fact, the U.S., just this year, is trying to restore its military bases here in Eastern Visayas specifically in Guiuan and Ormoc, strategic places for naval skirmishes, as it continued its annual Balikatan exercises with the Philippine Army in these towns this year. As it happened, a fisher folk community was demolished for the construction of a US base in Ormoc according to official accounts. These constructions will be free of cost and no rent will be collected from them. These actions only deflect the image the administration is portraying – that the Duterte administration is against the imperialist US.
Duterte, known for his profanity and comical statements usually addressed to Obama and China, occasionally challenges the U.S. to stay away from the Philippines during his early times. But after a year of submitting his self to US through initial pronouncements of suspending peace talks, promoting neoliberal economic policies, and waging a war against the farmers and his very own people, it could be drawn that Duterte is using the bells to toll his own demands for US – to fund his militarist vanity.
Beyond the bells is its tolls
While we call for the return of Balangiga bells and US’ admission to the crimes they perpetrated, we should also remember for whom those bells tolled – it was, above all, for the imperialist US. It was our heroes’ cue to their uprising against the US troops. And today, those bells continue tolling for US and their puppets – for Duterte and his cronies.
The call for the return of Balangiga bells speaks more than the bells. It also calls for a nation free from its top oppressor, a nation free from imperialist US. A Balangiga uprising yesterday is a nation rising today.