July 25 (UPI) — Filipino leader Rodrigo Duterte on Monday demanded the U.S. government return church bells that American soldiers took from Samar island more than a hundred years ago.
“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. Return them to us. This is painful for us,” Duterte said during his State of the Nation address before the Philippine Congress in Quezon City.
U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim, who was in attendance, showed no emotion as his face was flashed on the large screen.
Last September, Duterte also spoke about the Balangiga massacre before members of the Philippine Air Force.
“That was the time that 10 years old and above, was massacred by the Americans, and got the bell(s), and until now, they hijacked it, stole it and never returned it to us,” Duterte said last year.
On Sept. 28, 1901, Filipinos attacked American troops in Balangiga, killing nearly 50 members of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
In response, U.S. Gen. Jacob Smith ordered his troops to turn the island of Samar into a “howling wilderness.” Around 2,500 Filipinos died.
One church bell is in the possession of the 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Cloud, South Korea. The two others are on a former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo.
In 2009, a resolution in the U.S. House to return the bells died. In 2013, when Samar was among the islands devastated by the supertyphoon, there was a petition to have the bells returned. In 2016, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point returned a bell also taken in 1901 to the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Bauang, La Union.
Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for the U.S. military community, reported that bells were routinely taken as souvenirs but were sometimes removed so they were not melted down to make weapons.