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(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks

CHICAGO (JGL) — Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th-IL) has agreed to support the return of Balangiga Bells to Eastern Samar in the Philippines.

Jerry B. Clarito, convenor of FAHRA or Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, said Ms. Schakowsky, a Chief Deputy Whip and a member of the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, will vote to lift the restriction repatriating veterans objects notably the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines during his group’s  audience in her district office in Chicago, Illinois last Friday, Sept. 29. Farhra is a new US-based group of concerned Filipino Americans who decided to band together to promote human rights for all through bayanihan (people working together), kapitbahayan (neighbor helping neighbor) damayan (helping people in need) and by being knowledgeable and aware of the events happening here in the US and the Philippines.

Aside from the Balangiga Bells issue, Mr. Clarito said Ms. Schakowsky also agreed to support the adoption of S. 1055, the Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counter Narcotics Act, in the U.S. Senate that would restrict the export of certain defense items to the Philippine National Police, support human rights and civil society organizations in the Philippines, and report on sources of narcotics entering that country and the support for H.R. 3865, the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2017 introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) that would provide full equity to Filipino World War II veterans.

The provision restricting the return of Balangiga Bells is embedded in the existing National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which expired on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. But in the 2018 NDAA, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) has restored the restriction, which, if not deleted, would again prevent the return of the Balangiga Bells for another year.


PRESIDENT Duterte honoring the victims of Balangiga Massacre on Sept. 29 in Balangiga, Eastern Samar. (Presidential Communications Operations Office)

Ms. Cheney, a junior Representative and the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has revived the restriction first offered by Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas nearly 20 years ago into the House version of the bill. In inserting the restrictive provision, Mr. Thomas invoked the provision of the May 22, 1896 law, “An act To authorize the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy to make certain disposition of condemned ordnance, guns, and cannon balls in their respective Departments.”

This small provision prohibited the return of “Veteran Memorial Objects” brought to the US from foreign shores with the singular purpose of preventing the return of the two bells on Warren Air Force Base - - without even mentioning bells.


When the bells were brought to the U.S. in 1904, three years after the natives of Balangiga town revolted against the American soldiers garrisoned in the town during the Philippine-American War, the bells were lumped with a cannon (British-made Falcon) to qualify them as “war trophies” under the definition of the May 22, 1896 law although the bells are religious objects.

The surviving Americans claimed that one of the bells was used as a signal for the attack against the Americans, killing all the three officers and 45 enlisted men. Some 27 Filipino revolutionaries were also killed.

But a group of concerned veterans, diplomats and friends, and with the support of Senators McCain, Reed and others were able exclude the controversial, if not Byzantine provision from the Senate version. The bill now must be reconciled through bicameral negotiations in joint conference. 

Supporters of the return are urged to call their Senators and Congressmen that at the joint conference, the provision by the House version should be removed. And the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives should be informed that this provision should not be extended.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a huge bill that executes its Article 1 constitutional obligation to “provide for the common defense” also equips, supplies, and trains the troops; cares for them and their families; and sets national security policy in a dangerous world.  

When the small provision was embedded in prior years in NDAAs, no one ever gave much thought to it.  Back in the 2000 timeframe, the Wyoming congressional delegation successfully inserted a small provision that prohibited the return of “Veteran Memorial Objects” brought to the US from foreign shores singling out the two bells on Warren Air Force Base - - without even mentioning the bells. 

This well-crafted, and seemingly innocuous language was sponsored and inserted by former Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas.  It flew under the radar so to speak, and no one took exception at that time because few were even aware of it, and fewer still understood the facts and circumstances surrounding the bells, how they were taken and their history.  This provision is set to expire September 30, 2017.


In 1998, former Wyoming Governor Stan Hathaway (1967-1975) wrote Senator Thomas arguing that it was wrong to keep the bells. 

Governor Hathaway said the position of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion on this issue is wrong. “As a member of those organizations and as a combat veteran of World War II, I think I have a right to express that opinion. 

“If we adopted the same philosophy with respect to Germany and Japan and have no forgiveness of military acts between our nations, we would indeed be asking for more trouble. 

“The Germans have forgiven us for the killing of 300,000 people in Dresden bomb raid of 1945. I was on that mission. To hang on to some undefined military principle after 100 years doesn’t make any sense to me or most people of Wyoming. 

“I realize that you have taken a position on this issue, but I hope that you will change that position so that we can improve the friendship with the Philippines, which was once a protectorate of the United States, and help them celebrate their 100th birthday as free nation.”  

As the bill moves toward becoming law, each body of Congress submits its version.  The two committees that are responsible for the NDAA are the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).  Hence the individuals who have the most influence are the members of the HASC and SASC.  A listing and pictorial matrix of the members on both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee can be found on the Internet. The committee members usually respond to constituents. 

Members of the team that was responsible for the return of the Bells of San Lorenzo will be reaching out this week to key members of both the HASC and SASC, including Chairmen and Ranking Members, as well as others, to make sure the House provision IS NOT perpetuated and included in NDAA 2018.   

The members who will have the biggest impact on the final version of the bill are the joint conferees themselves. They will be mainly drawn from the HASC/SASC members, with some additional committees called on to conference specific provisions.

At the 116th commemoration of the Balangiga Massacre last Sept. 28 (Sept. 29 Philippine Time), President Duterte said, "I hope that Congress of America will give President Trump the authority to return the bells to us... just return them and we would be happy."

"We are not angry with you. We are just saying that those bells would touch in the core of our existence as a Filipino.”

It was the second time in as many months that Mr. Duterte had called out the U.S. to return the Balangiga Bells. During the State of the Nation Address last July 24, President Duterte also publicly appealed for the return of the bells, saying, “It is ours. It is painful.” (Contact reporter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)