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President Duterte leads 116th Commemoration of Balangiga Encounter Day

President Duterte said he is glad that there are efforts in the US aimed at bringing back to the Philippines the Balangiga bells as he expressed hopes that one day, they will be brought back to Balangiga.

“I hope that Congress of America will give President Trump the authority to return the bells to us… just return it and we would be happy,” Duterte said as he led the 116th commemoration of Balangiga Encounter Day and laid a wreath in the monument of Capt. Valeriano Abanador, who led the insurrection of the Samareños against the American soldiers in Balangiga on September 28, 1901.

“We are not angry at you. We are just saying that those bells would touch in the core of our existence as a Filipino,” he added.

On September 28, 1901, hundreds of native fighters mostly armed with bolos staged a successful surprise attack on US troops in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

Described as the “worst single defeat” of the US military in the Philippines, that event became known in history as the Balangiga Massacre. Of the 74 men of the Company C of the US military, 36 were killed during the attack, including all commissioned officers.

Eight of the wounded died later during the escape by bancas to Basey town and four were missing and presumed dead. The natives suffered 28 deaths and 22 wounded.

The US military implemented a “kill and burn” policy to take back Samar from October 1901 to March 1902. Brig. Gen. Jacob Smith of the US Army gave orders to kill anybody capable of bearing arms during the combat operations that resulted in the alleged disappearance of 50,000 people in Samar.

US forces also took the town’s three church bells with the smallest one now on permanent display at the traveling museum of the 9th US Infantry, now stationed in South Korea.

The two bigger bells were brought to the US by returning 11th Infantry soldiers to their home station at the former Fort D.A. Russel, now the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The President said that while the Americans committed misdeeds in the past, including their reprisals against the Filipinos in Balangiga, the incident is already water under the bridge.

The Philippines and the US fought numerous wars together as allies based on their common interest, he said.

American forces also played a major role in the government’s fight against Islamic militants in Marawi City, helping Filipino forces gain equipment and vital information.

The President however said that he will not allow American soldiers to directly participate in actual combat in Mindanao. (Source: PND)