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On the return of the Balangiga bells

A joint statement by Linganay ng Kalayaan, Kilos na Para sa Makabayang Edukasyon, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers
August 13, 2018

The Linganay ng Kalayaan (Bells of Freedom), Kilos na Para sa Makabayang Edukasyon and Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines welcome the news of the impending return of the bells of Balangiga as a positive step towards correcting the centuries-old historical injustice committed by the United States against the Filipino people. This is a victory achieved by the Filipino people that should be considered as part of the long and arduous campaign in the assertion of Philippine sovereignty and independence.

The Balangiga bells form part of the large number of war booties that the American occupation troops stashed away from the Philippines in the long and bloody Filipino-American War of 1898-1913.

The war resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, the large-scale burning of villages and the pillaging of communities by American troops that annexed the archipelago and robbed them of the fruits of freedom that they already had after the Philippine Revolution against Spain.

In the pretext of “Benevolent Assimilation,” the American occupation transformed the islands into their Asian outpost as part of their colonial design to create an American Lake in the Pacific region. This they did by creating a submissive colonial bureaucracy and political system, institutionalizing a Western-type of American educational system, and ensuring the continuous economic, political, and military dependence of the Philippines to the United States even after the granting of 'independence'.

In the half century of colonial occupation and in the ensuing long campaign to suppress Filipino resistance against American imperialism, the military campaigns of the United States in the archipelago provided the perfect opportunity for the systematic, organized, and institutional plunder and pillaging of Filipino cultural and historical artifacts and objects that were brought to the United States. A great number of them are now deposited in museums, historical collections, archives, and government and military installations scattered in various American territories.

The Balangiga bells was the most notable of these artifacts that was symbolic of the tradition of collecting colonial war booty American aggression. These should be returned to the Filipino communities that legitimately owned them. The collection of war booties should also be viewed as part of the historical injustice committed by the occupation troops and should be acknowledged as such.

The United States should complete the correction of historical injustice committed against the Filipino people after the return of the bells, by ensuring that all the other war booties be properly returned to the Philippines. Most importantly, historical injustice resulting from the war crimes committed by the United States in the colonial occupation of the Philippines must finally be acknowledged by the American government by way of formally apologizing to the Filipino people.

Historical injustice committed by American colonial institutions continues to this day by way of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, and the Mutual Defense Treaty that ensures the persistence of colonial ties between the two countries. These provide yet another series of institutional mechanisms that make available the conditions for the continuation of plunder and pillage of local communities by foreign military troops. The lessons of history must provide the Filipino people the right path of asserting Filipino independence and sovereignty the way the people's resistance in Balangiga heroically showed us. Never again should another series of colonial wars of aggression be experienced in the country.

Return the Balangiga Bells and all the War Booties Now!
Historical Justice for the Filipino People!
No to Another series of US Wars of Aggression!

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