MANILA- Should the Balangiga bells be treated as war booty?
During his State of the Nation Address this year, President Rodrigo Duterte called upon the US to return the bells plundered by American soldiers as "war booty" more than a hundred years ago.
The 3 church bells were taken by the US Army from the town of Balangiga, Eastern Samar in 1901.
Former senator Rene Saguisag said Duterte is right to demand for the return of the bells since these are property of the Church and should not be treated as "war booty."
"I agree with President Duterte. They (bells) belong here, sa atin dahil iyan unang-una ay property ng Simbahan kaya di dapat ituring na war booty," he said on ANC's "Beyond Politics" Tuesday.
Asked if the Americans had the power to decide whether the bells are considered spoils of battle, Saguisag responded: "I suppose, like in many things connected to war, the rules are written by the victors," he said.
"The significance to me is it's one of the few items in our history that we can be proud of," he added.
The bells were taken following a massacre of about 2,500 Filipinos in Balangiga by American soldiers, as revenge for an attack by Filipino patriots.
Earlier this month, US Ambassador Sung Kim said he is hopeful that Washington could soon return the 3 church bells, saying it is the "right thing to do."
Kim added that the US government is in talks with the Philippines for the return of the bells.
Saguisag said he is hopeful that the country can finally retrieve the bells under Duterte.
"I have read some accounts that America is moving to realize that dream that many of us have," he said.
The bells have yet to be returned to the Philippines despite attempts by previous administrations.
Amid several unfulfilled promises by past US presidents to return them, the bells remain at an American Air Force base in Wyoming.