The Balangiga bells: From hatred to understanding

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2018 11:16 PM

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MANILA - The return of the Balangiga bells signals was "bound to happen," former US Consul General Sonny Busa said.

"I knew it was going to happen, but I didn't know if it would happen in my lifetime. It didn’t come back earlier because of legislative prohibition against them coming back," Busa told ANC's Beyond Politics.

"I don't think this could have happened in other administrations because of the law prohibiting the return of the bells. It just so happened that law expired in (President Rodrigo) Duterte's time. It was bound to happen."

The bells, taken by American soldiers as war booty after ransacking the Samar town, arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday after 117 years. Two of the bells had been in Wyoming, Michigan and another one was stationed in a US camp in South Korea.

"We're not going to focus on bloody conflict, we’re gonna focus on what the bells mean as far as the relationship. The bells left in an atmosphere of rancor and hatred, now they come back with love and understanding," Busa said.

Busa said the approval of war veterans' groups played a big role in the return of the bells.

"It was very important to get veterans groups on board. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is the largest veterans' group in the US. In their convention last year, they passed a resolution supporting the return of the bells, which was huge. Another veteran's group, the American Legion, came up with a resolution," he said.

"They provided cover for the politicians to support it."

Busa, meanwhile, said there are future campaigns to get other war articles back to the Philippines.

"Yes, there are, but I’m not gonna say which one because we are mounting a campaign to get them back. I don’t want those groups to circle the wagons," he said.

Although the US-Philippine ties has experienced strain under the Duterte administration, Busa maintained the US-Philippine relationship remains strong.

"President Duterte, regardless of what rhetoric you've heard, he’s always been friendly towards the US. We have never doubted that he was on the US side," he said.

"There’s a few comments here and there but we don’t put much stock in it because US-Philippine relationship is very strong, and it's more than just one person, it’s millions of Filipinos and millions of Americans."

The US has been a long-standing ally of the Philippines, but under Duterte, this relationship has been tested due to criticism by the Obama administration on the Philippines' war on drugs.