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 House Resolution 30

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 1/28/2009)      Cosponsors (2)
Latest Major Action: 1/28/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
COSPONSORS(2), ALPHABETICAL [followed by Cosponsors withdrawn]:     (Sort: by date)

Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [GU] - 2/10/2009 Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 2/10/2009

Whereas the United States and the Philippines have shared historic and political ties for over 100 years; (Introduced in House)



1st Session

H. CON. RES. 30

Urging the President to authorize the return to the people of the Philippines of two church bells that were taken by the United States Army in 1901 from the town of Balangiga on the island of Samar, Philippines, and are currently displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.


January 28, 2009

Mr. FILNER submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Urging the President to authorize the return to the people of the Philippines of two church bells that were taken by the United States Army in 1901 from the town of Balangiga on the island of Samar, Philippines, and are currently displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.

Whereas the United States and the Philippines have shared historic and political ties for over 100 years;

Whereas the acquisition of the Philippines by the United States in 1898 ushered in unprecedented American influence in the affairs of the Asia-Pacific region;

Whereas, at the onset of the acquisition of the Philippines, armed conflict occurred between the United States Army and the Filipinos;

Whereas, during the course of that conflict, a particularly noteworthy incident occurred in the town of Balangiga on the island of Samar on September 28, 1901;

Whereas a church bell in Balangiga was reportedly rung, without permission from the parish priest, to signal an attack on the American garrison in the town;

Whereas, as a consequence, the 11th United States Infantry Regiment, known as the `Wyoming Volunteers', confiscated the bells of Balangiga and brought the bells to the United States as war trophies;

Whereas the regiment was stationed at Fort D.A. Russell in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which subsequently became F.E. Warren Air Force Base, and two of the bells of Balangiga remain on display at this installation;

Whereas the town of Balangiga built a memorial monument that includes the names of Filipinos and Americans who lost their lives in the September 28, 1901, incident, and the town honors these war dead on September 28th of each year;

Whereas the acts of conflict that surrounded the bells of Balangiga are not consistent with the friendship and cooperation that have been an integral part of the relationship between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States;

Whereas Filipino soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with American troops on the battlefields of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam;

Whereas the bells of Balangiga should more properly serve as a symbol of friendship and cooperation and not of unfortunate misunderstanding and conflict;

Whereas the bells of Balangiga are valued not only for their place in history, but also for the opportunity they present in enhancing lasting goodwill between the Philippines and the United States;

Whereas the Filipino people have repeatedly requested the return of the bells;

Whereas the Wyoming Veterans Commission recently voted in support of returning the Balangiga church bells to the Philippines;

Whereas the bells of Balangiga, when restored to their original setting in the Balangiga Parish, could again ring, after 108 years of muteness, as a symbol of the bond that exists between the Philippines and the United States; and

Whereas the United States holds supportable legal title to the bells recognizable under international law, and the United States Government has final disposition over the bells of Balangiga: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress urges the President to authorize the return of two church bells that were taken by the United States Army in 1901 from the town of Balangiga on the island of Samar, Philippines, and are currently displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, to the people of the Philippines as a visible symbol of the friendship, good will, and cooperation that exists between the Philippines and the United States.

Committee on Foreign Affairs
Sub Committee:
Asia, the Pacific & the Global Environment

Subcommittee Members

Eni F.H. Faleomavaega Eni F.H. Faleomavaega


D-American Samoa

Gary L. Ackerman Gary L. Ackerman

D-NY, 5th District

Diane E. Watson Diane E. Watson

D-CA, 33rd District

Mike Ross Mike Ross

D-AR, 4th District

Brad Sherman Brad Sherman

D-CA, 27th District

Eliot L. Engel Eliot L. Engel

D-NY, 17th District

Gregory W. Meeks Gregory W. Meeks

D-NY, 6th District

Donald A. Manzullo Donald A. Manzullo

Ranking Member

R-IL, 16th District

Bob Inglis Bob Inglis

R-SC, 4th District

Dana Rohrabacher Dana Rohrabacher

R-CA, 46th District

Edward R. Royce Edward R. Royce

R-CA, 40th District

Jeff Flake Jeff Flake

R-AZ, 6th District

Committee on Foreign Affairs


Howard L. Berman, Chairman D-CA, 28th District


Gary L. Ackerman Vice Chair D-NY, 5th District


Eni F.H. Faleomavaega D-American Samoa


Donald M. Payne D-NJ, 10th District


Brad Sherman D-CA, 27th District


Robert Wexler D-FL, 19th District


Eliot L. Engel D-NY, 17th District


Bill Delahunt D-MA, 10th District


Gregory W. Meeks D-NY, 6th District


Diane E. Watson D-CA, 33rd District


Russ Carnahan D-MO, 3rd District


Albio Sires D-NJ, 13th District


Gerald E. Connolly D-VA, 11th District


Michael E. McMahon D-NY, 13th District


John S. Tanner D-TN, 8th District


Gene Green D-TX, 29th District


Lynn Woolsey D-CA, 6th District


Sheila Jackson Lee D-TX, 18th District


Barbara Lee D-CA, 9th District


Shelley Berkley D-NV, 1st District


Joseph Crowley D-NY, 7th District


Mike Ross D-AR, 4th District


Brad Miller D-NC, 13th District

David Scott D-GA, 13th District


Jim Costa D-CA, 20th District


Keith Ellison D-MN, 5th District


Gabrielle Giffords D-AZ, 8th District


Ron Klein D-FL, 22nd District


Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Ranking Member R-FL, 18th District


Christopher H. Smith R-NJ, 4th District


Dan Burton R-IN, 5th District


Elton Gallegly R-CA, 24th District


Dana Rohrabacher R-CA, 46th District


Donald A. Manzullo R-IL, 16th District


Edward R. Royce R-CA, 40th District


Ron Paul R-TX, 14th District


Jeff Flake R-AZ, 6th District


Mike Pence R-IN, 6th District


Joe Wilson R-SC, 2nd District


John Boozman R-AR, 3rd District


J. Gresham Barrett R-SC, 3rd District


Connie Mack R-FL, 14th District


Jeff Fortenberry R-NE, 1st District


Michael T. McCaul R-TX, 10th District


Ted Poe R-TX, 2nd District


Bob Inglis R-SC, 4th District


Gus Bilirakis R-FL, 9th District


Return the Balangiga bells

August 2, 2009, 2:29am

In addition to the official agenda of the PGMA-President Barack Obama working visit in Washington D.C., which is already well-publicized, and the confidential one-on-one discussions that may have taken place between the two Presidents which, expectedly, may not be made public, it is again timely to bring up a long-standing irritant in RP-US relations — the return to the Philippines by the US of the Balangiga bells.

The Philippine-American war

A brief historical note: After the Spanish-American war drove Spain out of the Philippines, American troops remained locked in conflict with the sovereign Philippine Army and Filipino guerrillas fighting for the preservation of their independence under President Emilio Aguinaldo. The church bells were reportedly rang by Filipino rebels to trigger an attack on the American garrison in Balangiga, a village in Samar Province, on 28 September, 1901.

The reprisals that followed shortly, led by General Jacob “Howling” Smith, left hundreds of Filipino combatants and even more civilians dead in the Visayan Islands, with whole towns burned to the ground.

In 1904, two church bells were taken by US troops from the Balangiga Church as “war booty” and brought to Fort Russell in Wyoming (now Warren Air Force Base), then headquarters of the 11th Infantry Regiment, mother unit of the soldiers killed in Balangiga.

In his 1997 classic, “Face of Empire: US-Philippine Relations, 1898-1946,” Dr. Frank Golay narrates: “Despite the consolidation of American control, the war would not go away. Engagements between American and Filipino units had averaged 44 each month during the period of formal warfare beginning in February 1899 through November that year, increased to 92 monthly over the next four months ending in March 1900, and rose to 120 during the following three months. Guerrilla warfare also proved more deadly, as the ratio of Americans killed to wounded increased — from 22% for the 1899 period, to 50% for most of the first half of 1900.

“These developments contributed to a collapse of the optimism shared by American military leaders in early 1900... By July, General Arthur MacArthur was demanding from the War Department more troops for the Philippines.”

US ‘scorched earth’ policy

The monumental work of Dr. Cesar Pobre (retired Dean of the PMA Corps of Professors), “History of the Armed Forces of the Filipino People,” reveals much of the thinking of America’s leaders during President William McKinley’s term (1897-1901), and that of his successor Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909). Dr. Pobre describes the US “scorched earth” policy after Balangiga: “General Vicente Lukban managed to have his men infiltrate the American garrison stationed in Balangiga.

That day, while the Americans were at breakfast, guerrillas disguised as laborers suddenly fell upon the unsuspecting enemy. Taking cue from the ringing of church bells, other Filipinos rushed seemingly from everywhere to join their comrades. In that action, of the 69 Americans (6 of them officers), 45 were killed; 24 others escaped, mostly wounded.

“The incident prompted President Roosevelt to order Gen. Jacob Smith to pacify Samar. Before long, Smith issued his infamous Circular No. 6, which ordered: ‘I want no prisoners. Kill and burn; and the more you burn and kill, the better it will please me.’ He tasked his men to reduce Samar into a ‘howling wilderness,’ to kill anyone 10 years old and above capable of bearing arms.

“Smith’s subordinates did as commanded, and in six months, Balangiga indeed became ‘a howling wilderness,’ if not a quiet cemetery. For ordering the carnage, he earned the nickname ‘Howling Smith.’ He was court-martialed and found guilty, but President Roosevelt eventually intervened. Smith was merely ‘admonished’ and retired. Maj. Littleton Waller, who carried out Smith’s order and for which he was called the ‘Butcher of Samar,’ was acquitted.”

Dr. Samuel Tan (former Chairman of the National Historical Commission), in his 2002 book, “The Filipino-American War 1899-1913” provides more bloody details: “After the massacre, a Capt. Bookmiller who entered the town the next day, was met by the gory sight of 48 mutilated bodies. He could only burn the town in revenge and bury the dead.”

Atrocities in Southern Luzon

Meanwhile, the successive offensives by General Miguel Malvar’s guerrilla forces in Southern Luzon came under serious concern by the US Army Command, who thought these attacks could not be undertaken without the support of local civilians. Historian Pobre records this about the Tagalog provinces: “General J.F. Bell felt the key to eradicating resistance in those areas was to prevent the access of Malvar and his followers to the people.

Taking inspiration from General Smith, he made the life of the people so unbearable that they would now be impelled to abandon their cause. General Bell instituted the ‘reconcentration system,’ where all persons were forced to move into a prescribed zone... After the set deadline, persons found outside the ‘protected zone’ were treated as enemies. No one was allowed to get in or out therefrom without permission, and once the reconcentration zone was cordoned, the Americans would search the houses to identify guerrillas and collaborators. Suspects were then apprehended, tortured and killed on the spot.

“Unlike the ‘zona,’ which the Japanese Army during WWII was to enforce to catch guerrillas and their supporters, the American ‘protected zone’ was much more extreme. While the Japanese ‘zona’ would last only for some hours or a day, the reconcentration system would run for weeks or even months on end. The forced internment of thousands of people, together with their domestic animals, made them like sardines packed in a can and, despite their being half-starved, would yet be required to do manual labor.”

Ramos-Clinton talks: A win-win proposal

Flashback to 1998: During my visit to the US on 06-10 April 1998, among other issues up for discussion, I sought President Clinton’s help and suggested what, in my view, was a win-win solution — cut both bells in half, and each country to keep two halves to be restored to their original shapes afterwards. President Clinton favored the sharing proposal, but was stymied by an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (Pentagon Budget) — “to prohibit the return of veterans’ memorial objects to foreign nations without specific authorization in law.” The rider was introduced a few weeks before by then Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming who intoned, “History brought the bells to Wyoming, and there they should stay.”

To be sure, as there were groups who objected to the bells’ return being “legitimate spoils of war that enshrine the memory of American soldiers,” there were more who strongly   their return to the Philippines — among them, the Wyoming State Senate and House of Representatives, Wyoming Veterans Commission, and National Bishops Conference of America.

To his credit, Bishop Joseph Hart of the Cheyenne Diocese who consistently supported the return of the Balangiga bells, said: “Religious objects are inappropriate trophies of war. Church bells are religious artifacts with considerable significance in Catholic tradition. These bells should be returned to the place and purpose for which they were cast and blessed.”

From the US: A centennial gift

President Clinton was not unaware of the depth of feeling of Filipinos for their spiritual icons. He facilitated the return of another prized symbol of their Christian faith: the 18-inch ivory statue of the miraculous “Madonna and Christ Child” which had been “taken” by American soldiers from the Cathedral of Borongan, Samar’s capital town, and eventually found its way to Wyoming.

The icon had been given to Bishop Hart in 1984 by a woman named Dazee Bristol whose husband fought in the Spanish-American war, and who “rescued” it from a fire that razed Borongan.

On 18 February 1998, Bishop Hart personally handed over the statue to our Ambassador to the US, Raul Rabe, who then displayed it at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. for the Filipino-American community to venerate.

The “Madonna and Christ Child” was turned over to First Lady Ming and, on 23 April 1998, we returned it to the loving care of Bishop Leonardo Medroso in Borongan, from where it was taken a hundred years before. Indeed, it was a precious centennial (of Philippine Independence) gift!

We would have been much happier had the bells of Balangiga joined the Madonna in its journey home, but Filipinos should continue these efforts and persevere for their return.

Choosing our ‘better history’

As President Barack Obama said at his inaugural: “The time has come to choose our better history.” In effect, he issued a challenge to his and other nations to build together a brighter future from the failures or hurts of the past through personal transformation, national renewal, and universal brotherhood.

Kaya ba natin ito???

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ANGELA CHARLTON | 10/ 9/09 12:02 PM

PARISFrance's culture minister agreed Friday to return five painted wall fragments to Egypt after a row over their ownership prompted the Egyptians to cut ties with the Louvre Museum.

A committee of 35 specialists unanimously recommended that France give back the painted wall fragments from a 3,200-year-old tomb near the ancient temple city of Luxor.

Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand "immediately decided to follow this recommendation," his office said in a statement. It was not clear when France would send the fragments back to Egypt.

Mitterrand said the items were acquired by the Louvre in "good faith" and that the decision to return them reflects France's and the Louvre's commitment of "resolute action against illegal trafficking of cultural goods."

Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass described the disputed fragments as pieces of a burial fresco showing the nobleman Tetaki's journey to the afterlife.

Hawass took his campaign to recover the nation's lost treasures to a new level Wednesday by cutting ties with the Louvre over the artifacts. It was the most aggressive effort yet by Hawass, Egypt's tough and media-savvy chief archaeologist, to reclaim what he says are antiquities stolen from the country and purchased by leading world museums.

Thousands of antiquities were spirited out of the country during Egypt's colonial period and afterward by archaeologists, adventurers and thieves.

France is full of emblems of Egyptian history, from the Obelisk of Luxor at the Place de la Concorde, given to France by an Egyptian viceroy in the 19th century, to halls of sculptures, sarcophagi and other works in the Louvre.

Those at issue now, however, were obtained relatively recently. Hawass' office said thieves chipped them from the walls of the tomb near the Valley of the Kings in the 1980s. The Louvre bought them in 2000 and 2003.

"It wasn't until November 2008, after archaeologists rediscovered the tomb from which the frescoes appear to have come, that serious doubts emerged about the legality of their removal from Egyptian territory," Mitterrand's statement said.

The Egyptian move to cut ties with the Louvre could jeopardize the renowned museum's future excavations in Egypt. Egypt suspended the Louvre's excavation in the massive necropolis of Saqqara, near Cairo and canceled a lecture in Egypt by a former Louvre curator.

After Hawass' announcement Wednesday, both the Louvre and France's Culture Ministry said they were ready to return the pieces. Mitterrand had ordered French museum experts to meet first to study the issue.

The Culture Ministry would not comment on another piece held by the Louvre that Hawass has said he wants back: the painted ceiling of a temple at Dendera showing the Zodiac.

Hawass also cut ties with the St. Louis Art Museum after it failed to answer his demand to return a 3,200-year-old golden burial mask of a noblewoman.

Hawass also wants the return of the bust of Nefertiti – wife of the famed monotheistic Pharaoh Akhenaten – and the Rosetta Stone, a basalt slab with an inscription that was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. The bust is in Berlin's Egyptian Museum; the Rosetta Stone is in the British Museum in London.