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Duterte asks U.S. to return three church bells seized as spoils of war more than a century ago

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to protesters in Quezon City, Philippines, on July 24, 2017.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to protesters in Quezon City, Philippines, on July 24, 2017.
(MARK R. CRISTINO / EPA)

Taking a swipe at the United States in his state of the nation address, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked the U.S. to return three church bells seized as spoils of war from the eastern Philippine village of Balangiga more than a century ago.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells,” Duterte said in his speech at the House of Representatives, attended by the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats. “They are part of our national heritage ... return it to us, this is painful for us.”

Duterte, who calls himself a socialist, has had an antagonistic attitude toward the U.S. while bolstering ties with China and Russia.

File photos of two bells of Balangiga at F.E. Warren Air Force Base outside Cheyenne, Wyo.,
(NEAL ULEVICH / AP)

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Filipinos revere the Balangiga bells as symbols of their long struggle for independence. The bells gave the signal for insurgents to attack American soldiers who were occupying Balangiga after the U.S. took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.

Two of the three bells are displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. They are part of a memorial to 46 U.S. troops killed by Filipino insurgents in 1901. A third bell is with a U.S. Army regiment in South Korea.

Talk about returning the bells has been a perennial issue in U.S.-Philippine relations.


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