US to return war booty church bells to Philippines

A view of the Roman Catholic church in the coastal Philippine town of Balangiga, the belfry of which the town built in 1998 in the hope that the US would return three bells it says were stolen during the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War. (Reuters/Nathan Layne/File Photo)
Updated 12 August 2018
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US to return war booty church bells to Philippines

  • The US will return church bells to the Philippines troops seized in a bloody campaign more than a century ago
  • Duterte and previous Philippine governments had urged Washington to return the bells

MANILA: The United States will return to the Philippines church bells seized by American forces in a bloody campaign more than a century ago, its embassy said on Sunday, following a demand by President Rodrigo Duterte.
American forces took three bells from the Catholic church of Balangiga town on the eastern island of Samar in 1901 as war booty in what historians said was a particularly brutal military operation in the new US colony.
Duterte and previous Philippine governments had urged Washington to return the bells, with the president often raising the issue in his anti-American tirades as he builds closer ties with China and Russia.
The US had initially given a non-committal response to Duterte’s demands but on Sunday said it would return the bells.
“The Secretary of Defense has notified Congress that the Department (of Defense) intends to return the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines,” said Molly Koscina, spokeswoman for the US embassy in Manila.
“We’ve received assurances that the Bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they deserve,” she added, saying there was no date scheduled for the move.
Duterte’s spokesman welcomed the announcement.
Two of the bells are installed at a memorial for US war dead in the state of Wyoming, while the third is with US forces in South Korea.
Some US politicians oppose the dismantling of the memorial, and the issue had sparked an emotional response from the descendants of American soldiers who served in the Philippine campaign.
The Philippines, a Spanish colony for centuries, was ceded to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War. The country gained independence from the US in 1946.
The brutal Samar campaign was launched about a month after Filipino rebels killed 34 US troops in Balangiga on September 28, 1901, according to a US Army War College research paper.
Seven other American soldiers perished during the escape from Balangiga, and US reinforcements razed the town the day after, it added.
Then-Philippine president Fidel Ramos first sought but failed to recover the bells during a 1998 Washington trip.
Duterte, who took office in mid-2016, demanded the return of the bells during his State of the Nation address last year: “Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage.”


More US sanctions on Myanmar for rights abuses

Rohingya refugees queue at an aid relief distribution centre at the Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar on August 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 44 min 48 sec ago
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More US sanctions on Myanmar for rights abuses

  • The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights
  • The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the target of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove more than 140,000 people

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on members of the Myanmar security forces for their alleged role in violent campaigns against ethnic minorities across the troubled nation in Southeast Asia.
Myanmar security forces have engaged in ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader US government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering.”
The Trump administration earlier imposed sanctions on the chief of Myanmar’s western military command, but has faced pressure from human rights groups and lawmakers to impose more sanctions on those involved in a crackdown that began in August 2017 in western Rakhine State where 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fled brutal army operations.
The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the target of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove more than 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remained until last year’s violence.
The government refuses to recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights. Myanmar, however, has staunchly denied that its security forces have targeted civilians in so-called clearance operations in Rakhine State on Myanmar’s west coast.
Friday’s action sanctions four commanders with the Myanmar military and border guard police plus two military units for their alleged involvement in ethnic cleaning in Rakhine and other human rights abuses in Burma’s Kachin and Shan states. Those sanctioned are: military commanders Aung Kyaw Zaw, Khin Maung Soe, Khin Hlaing and Thura San Lwin; and members of the 33rd and 99th light infantry divisions.
The sanctions block any property they own within US jurisdiction and prohibit US citizens from engaging in transactions with them.