Duterte to bring up Balangiga bells issue with top US diplomat

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2017 12:52 PM

Duterte to bring up Balangiga bells issue with top US diplomat 1

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to raise with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the issue on Balangiga bells which were taken by American soldiers as war booty from the Philippines more than a hundred years ago, a Palace official said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte will discuss the issue, along with a range of other topics, when he meets the top US diplomat during a courtesy call in Malacañang on Monday afternoon.

The expected discussion about the bells between Tillerson and Duterte comes in the wake of the latter’s call, during his second State of the Nation Address, for the US to return 3 church bells which were taken by the US Army from the town of Balangiga, Eastern Samar in 1901 as "war booty."

Despite several attempts to bring back the bells by previous administrations and unfulfilled promises by several US presidents to return them, the bells remain at an American Air Force base in Wyoming.

Duterte has pressed the US to return the bells even as he criticized the latter for questioning his war on drugs. He believes that the US has no right to criticize the Philippines because it is also guilty of committing atrocities against Filipinos.

Abella, meanwhile, said the security situation in Marawi City, threat posed by global terror networks, and increasing Philippines-US economic and people-to-people engagement will also be taken up by Duterte and Tillerson.

He added the President will also welcome a discussion on the human rights situation in the Philippines “if and when raised.”

The Duterte administration has several times defended the war on drugs, even as human rights groups have repeatedly raised alarm on the mounting death toll being linked to it.

Tillerson, along with 26 other foreign ministers, is in Manila to attend Asia’s biggest security forum, where security issues such as China’s activities in the South China Sea and North Korea’s long-range missile tests are expected to be brought up.