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Money Laundering in a Changed World









The Bells of Balangiga: An Appeal for Support

Bishop, Diocese of Borongan
September 30, 2004

"And since these bells belong to the Roman Catholic Church of the Parish of Balangiga, they should be returned to the Catholic community of Balangiga..."

The Diocese of Borongan is bringing to the attention of the entire Philippine Church its struggle to recover the bells which one hundred years ago were taken as war booty from the church in Balangiga town. In its urgent appeal for support in this struggle, the Diocese is asking the bishops, the clergy and religious, and the lay faithful throughout the country to take a close look into the issue of the Balangiga Bells, and thereby appreciate its implications as a nation and as a Church.

The Issue

In a nutshell, the Bells of Balangiga are Church bells. They are religious artifacts with considerable significance in the Catholic tradition. Among many other uses, they call people to prayer and worship. As such they are inappropriate trophies of war. Hence, they should be returned to the place where they belong and to the purpose for which they were cast and blessed. And since these bells belong to the Roman Catholic Church of the Parish of Balangiga, they should be returned to the Catholic community of Balangiga.

The US government will not give up the bells. Its reason is simple: the bells are the property of the US government. Capt. Kathleen Cook of the Warren AFB public information office puts it this way: "The Catholic Church has no say in the matter. The bells are property of the US government. Only Congress can change the disposition of those bells" (Marguerite Herman, Wyoming Catholic Register, December 1997)

These Church bells, seized as war booty in 1901 by the US troops in the Philippines and presently enshrined at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, have taken on a special meaning both for the people of the Philippines, who seek their return, as well as those in the United States of America, for whom they are sacred to the memory of the troops who died in Samar nearly a century ago.

Currently the matter is under congressional investigation. Recently, Sen. Craig Thomas (R‑Wyo), again attempted to stonewall the return effort by introducing language in the Defense Authorization Bill, S. 1055, that would prohibit "the return of veterans' memorial objects to foreign nations without specific authorization law." Without expressly naming either the object or the country this refers to the Bells of Balangiga.

Historical Background

The Bells of Balangiga issue goes back to the American involvement in the Philippines, which began with the Spanish‑American War in 1898. The Philippines was then a Spanish possession. After the defeat of Spain, however, the United States decided to retain possession of the Philippines rather than grant the nation its independence. An insurrection followed, which lasted more than three years and cost the lives of 4,200 US troops and some 20,000 Filipino combatants. Thousands more Filipino died as a result of famine and disease caused by the war.

The most infamous incident of the war occurred on September 28, 1901, in the town of Balangiga, located some 400 miles southeast of Manila on the island of Samar. The church bells in Balangiga were reportedly used to signal a surprise attack by Filipino insurgents, many using machetes on an American garrison posted in the town.

The attack left more than 50 US soldiers dead and led to American reprisals. It was so severe that they resulted in the reprimand of the American commander, Gen. Jacob Smith. But it was also effective as it shortened the insurrection to six months.

Among the actions taken by the American troops during the reprisals was the razing of several Catholic churches in the area and the confiscation of the Bells of Balangiga as trophies of war. They now hang in a "trophy park" at the Warren Air Force Base.

Current Positions

1. The Diocese of Borongan, to which the Parish of Balangiga belongs, lays rightful ownership to the Bells of Balangiga. Bishop Leonardo Y. Medroso, in his letter to Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne Diocese, wrote: "I, however, resolve to write you this letter of request for the simple fact that my people in the town of Balangiga have more reasons to reclaim and recover the possession of the said bells. Records tell that the bells were property of the local church in Balangiga when they were taken by the American forces. As such they kept my people in touch with lives of their parents and grandparents, their past, their origin, their religious sentiments, their culture. The market value of the bells may not be that high, but the collective sentiments that they have borne and symbolized are priceless. It is for this that through the years my people in Balangiga have been longing to retrieve their church bells.

2. The American legions, the Amvets (American military veterans), and some state legislators would not have any part of that claim. They say that they belong to the US government as they are legitimate spoils of war. These bells enshrined the memories of their dead ones, mercilessly massacred by treacherous attacks.

3. The Philippines delegation, led by former President Fidel Ramos and Ambassador Raul Rabe and supported by some American legislators, has taken a compromise position, namely, to have the two bells recast and then give one original and one replica to each country. This is the position that is accepted and supported by the members of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC). The Diocese of Borongan, with much reluctance, agrees to this arrangements.

During its Plenary Assembly held on July 10‑12, 1999, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has taken the position of the Bishop of Borongan.

But the American veterans are adamant. The Bells of Balangiga have to remain in F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In fact, this is the reason for the action of Sen. Craig Thomas in introducing language in the Defense Authorization Bill, S. 1055, that would prohibit "the return of veterans' memorial objects to foreign nations without specific authorization in law."


The struggle to retrieve the Bells of Balangiga and to restore them to their rightful owner is raging on. The Diocese of Cheyenne is supporting us; the National Bishops Conference of America is behind us; some US legislators are sympathetic to our cause; our government is not only active in its support, it is initiating activities towards the return of the bells and closely coordinating with our own activities to retrieve them.

Now, we are asking, pleading for the support of the entire people of God in the Philippines.





The time to return the bells is now

By Honorable BEN P. EVARDONE
Governor, Eastern Samar
(Draft of speech for the 103rd Balangiga Encounter Day, September 28, 2004)

"Now that the U.S. government has run out of arguments to skirt the issue of the Balangiga bells, perhaps it is high time for President George Bush to muster his political will to return these bells where they belong..."

The annual commemoration we observe today in this town has gone a long way since it was started 15 years ago in 1989, the year after Congress of the Philippines passed into law Republic Act No. 6692, which declared "September 28 as Balangiga Encounter Day and a special non‑working holiday in the Province of Eastern Samar."

Fifteen years ago, the Balangiga Encounter Day was an obscure ritual in a very remote corner of the province. Using Tacloban City, the regional capital, as point of reference, Balangiga was reachable by some six hours of night boat travel or some sixteen hours of direct land vehicle travel on rough roads around much of Samar Island.

Today, Balangiga is‑only 1.5 hours of land vehicle travel from Tacloban through the very smooth Southern Samar Coastal Road. The town is literally along the highway towards progress, prosperity, and development. And its inhabitants now enjoy modern amenities including cable TV, land telephone, and lately, cellular phone facilities, despite the frequent electrical brownouts that we continue to suffer in this province. A modern piped water system is likewise being constructed in the locality.

From virtual obscurity, the Balangiga incident that we are commemorating today has also virtually displaced from the limelight from the Leyte Landing rites that our neighboring island will commemorate next month.

Indeed, the Balangiga Encounter Day has become the most nationally and internationally visible historical commemoration in our part of the region in recent years. Whether by design or by default, our national leaders were party to the recent resurgence of interest in the Balangiga event of 1901 and what it stood for.

In 1998, then President Fidel V. Ramos staked his position and mobilized the entire government machinery in an all‑out campaign to have the now‑famous Bells of Balangiga in time for the centennial commemoration of the Declaration of Philippine Independence that year. President Ramos might have failed in his quest, but the symbolism of the unreturned bells continues to ring to this day.

The bells could not be returned in 1998 because of several fundamental differences and issues that could not be addressed by an all‑out media war and political and diplomatic maneuverings.

At its most basic was the fact that there were two parallel but credible versions of the Balangiga story that did not match and contradicted each other ‑ one American, and the other, Filipino ‑ that contradicted each other in almost every aspect. These contrasting versions of the story, which were fashioned out of selective details and contrasting interpretations of phenomena about what happened in Balangiga in September 1901.

The differences of the two contrasting versions ranged across almost every facet of the Balangiga story including the overall situation in Samar around 1901; the arrival of Charlie Company of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment in Balangiga; their initial activities in town, the growing tension, the actual fighting, the number of casualties, the escape from Balangiga, and the "kill and burn" aftermath.

It took several years of "back to the basic" research for the contrasting stories about Balangiga to be reconciled and published as a book written by a native of our region, which we also launch here today. Its title is The Balangiga Conflict Revisited. This book was recently complemented by another book, titled Hang the Dogs: The True Tragic History of the Balangiga Massacre. The authors of both books are here with us today.

A second basic issue pertained to the bells themselves. How many bells were taken from Balangiga? What independent proofs other than the American claims were to prove their Balangiga origin?

Until 1998, the general belief was that there were only two Bells of Balangiga, and these are displayed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. Since then, it has been proven that a third bell of Balangiga exists, and this third one is in the possession of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment, which is now stationed in Korea.

The Balangiga Research Group (BRG), which has extensively researched on the Balangiga event, has presented independent proof of the bells' Balangiga origins. For instance, the name of Father Agustin Delgado, the town's parish priest in 1889, is embossed on the 1889 bell displayed in Wyoming, and the name of Father Bernardo Aparicio, the town's parish priest in 1896, is embossed on the 1896 bell now in Korea.

Other related issues pertain to the legality of taking the bells from Balangiga belfry by U.S. Army soldiers in 1901, and precedents from civil law, military law, and international treaties.

According to a British professor who is an expert on cultural artifacts, who was consulted by the BRG, civil law has it that "... the taking of civilian property as opposed to military materiel or items taken as war reparations has not been regarded as legal since the early 19th century (Paris/Vienna, 1815), if not earlier (Westphalia, 1648)."

The U.S. Army could not also invoke the dictum of "To the victors belong the spoil" in taking the bells as war trophies. This was because General Order 100, which guided the U.S. Army conduct during the Philippine‑American War, specifically prohibited the taking of church property.

The Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898, through which Spain turned over the Philippines to the United States, stated that rights to ownership of artifacts which, under the terms of General Order 100, were held in abeyance, "shall be acknowledged respected and safeguarded."

Thus, civil law, military law, and international treaties were, together, very clear: the bells belong to Balangiga.

All those directly involved in the Balangiga affair, on both sides of the Pacific, the U.S. Army senior leadership, diplomats, and U.S. government officials have been one in saying, although quietly, that their government knows that the right, legal and ethical course of action is to return the bells to their rightful place ‑ that is, in Balangiga.

On top of these, the U.S. Congress, through the Unified Code of Military Justice, has provided the President of the United States with the required authority to return the bells regardless of the status of the property rights involved.

Winston Churchill, the wartime leader of the United Kingdom, once said that "the Americans will always do right thing ‑ once they have exhausted every possible alternative."

Now that the U.S. government has run out of arguments to skirt the issue of the Balangiga bells, perhaps it is high time for President George Bush to muster his political will to return these bells where they belong, and bring a closure to the last issue of contention between the Philippines and United States related to the Philippine‑American War a century ago.

And the time is now.





The San Francisco Consul General Maria
Rowena Mendoza Sanchez, delivering her challenge to the UP alumni in San
Francisco to help the Philippines

Speech delivered during the Induction of Incoming 2004-2006
University of the Philippines Alumni Association of San Francisco
September 11, 2004. 7:00 PM; Ramada Hotel
1217 Wildwood Avenue Sunnyvale, California

"The Filipino-American community is in the best position to help the country to attract or negotiate for much needed trade and investments..."


Mr. Theodore B.M. Aquino, President-elect of UPAA-SF, past President Roque Hilomen, Incoming Officers for 2004-2006 and Members of the UP Alumni Association, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen:

Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat!

May I convey to you, Mr. Aquino and the Incoming Officers of the U.P. Alumni Association for 2004-2006, my congratulations on your election to your respective offices. I wish you all the best in your endeavors in community service and leadership during your tenure.

The victims of 9-11 terrorist attack

It gives me great pleasure to be here tonight. Ngunit, mga kababayan, bago po natin ipagpatuloy ang ating paguusap ngayong gabi, ipahintulot po ninyo na manahimik muna tayo ng  ilang saglit. Let us devote a few seconds of silence. Let us as we remember those of our kababayans who died three years ago, during the 9-11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon.

1) Grace Alegre Cua; (2) Carl Allen Peralta; (3) Marlyn Bautista; (4) Judy Fernandez; (5) Maria Teresa Santillan; (6) Jayceryll de Chavez; (7) Hector Tamayo; (8) Cynthia Betita Motus Wilson; (9) Frederick Kuo, Jr.; (10) Manuel Lopez; (11) Cecile Caguicla; (12) Rufino Conrado Roy Santos; (13) Cesar Alviar; (14) Hilario “Larry” Sumaya; (15) Ramon Grihalvo; (16) Arnold Lim;  (17) David Marc Sullins; (18) Benilda Domingo and (19) Ronald Gamboa (who was on board United Arilines flight no. 175 which hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. May they rest in everlasting peace. And as we pray for our kababayans, let us include all those who perished in this tragedy and their families whose lives will never be the same.

UP Alumni Association in service to Filipino people

At the outset, may I commend all of you for sustaining a vibrant association that provides valuable services to the Filipino American community and the larger community back home. You have certainly contributed much already to the upliftment of the welfare of our people, and yet, as I hope we all realize, we have much more to do for our country.

The Philippine Consulate General is commited to link arms with you in our continuing pursuit of national development for all. The Consulate will continue to provide quality service to the community and the Filipino people. Having said that, I would like to request that you support us in this effort by providing feedback and comments on our service. The Consulate also has as one of its primary objectives, among others, the realization of the five priorities of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and of all in government.

PGMA’s priorities, foreign policy directions and three pillars of foreign policy

The five priorities are all aimed at poverty alleviation, notably, (a) creation of new jobs and establishing broad middle class; (b) quality education for everyone of school age in uncrowded classrooms and surroundings conducive to learning; (c) a network of transport and digital infrastructure to interconnect the whole country; (d) affordable electric power and clean water to all barangay (village); and (e) develop Subic and Clark into the best international service and logistic center in the Asia Pacific region.

These priority goals may seem remote to our work and way of life here; the framework and content of the foreign policy of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is anchored on the Philippine Constitution, Philippine laws and treaty obligations that guide us in our relationship with other countries in the world. It is inevitable these days that individuals and nations inter-relate with each other, in this challenging and fast-changing world. At the end of the day however, essential decisions are made on what best serves the national interest.

The process of interdependence among nations, as you certainly know, is not our monopoly or the concern solely of  the Philippine foreign service.  The components and directions of our foreign policy are hinged upon the three pillars of diplomacy, namely: (1) the preservation and enhancement of national security; (2) promotion and attainment of economic security; and  (3) the protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare and interests of overseas Filipinos.

Relationship between  Foreign Service &  Fil-Am Community Service

As I have earlier said, you have done so much already for our countrymen and yet, we can still  do more, particularly in the second and third pillars on economic security and promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipinos. We have noted your programs and projects during the past years and they are, indeed, laudable. Taking cognizance of your deep patriotic sentiment from the initiatives you have already made, I am encouraged to convey to you this additional challenge, as i could perceive your sincere commitment in doing all you can, in your level best,  for our ‘Mahal na Inang Bayan’, instilled no doubt, in the core of your being since your school days as “Iskolar ng Bayan”.

The times ahead of us are challenging but I am confident that the task of nation building which is set before us once again by the spelled-out priorities of the president and of all in government can, in time and with all our efforts, be accomplished.

We can implement the three pillars of foreign policy through programs and projects that will bounce to the improvement in the well being of our people at home and abroad. Our country’s economic growth will continue to require direct foreign investment. Government will strive to make  our strategic geographical setting attractive for international tourism and new investments. Our economy will also be continuously dependent upon dollar remittances from our overseas Filipinos. You may wish to consider going to any retail store and asking for Philippine products. You see, when you create a demand for Philippine products, you create jobs in the Philippines.

The Filipino-American community is in the best position to help the country to attract or negotiate for much needed trade and investments, transfer of technology, provide support to small and medium scale entrepreneurs, among others.

As alumni of the University of the Philippines, you can also continue providing assistance not only to our alma mater but perhaps also to the rest of the public schools system. You all know what an impact such assistance has on the community.

Closing Statement

I am certain you are one with me in working for the realization of a vision of a Filipino American Community with an unfailing sense of patriotism, and in a dynamic partnership with your government in building  a stronger Philippines.

Nawa’y pagpalain kayo ng Poong Maykapal sa inyong mga adhikain para sa inyong samahan at para sa  ating sambayanang Pilipino.

Mabuhay ang UP Alumni Association of San Francisco!

Maraming salamat po at magandang gabi muli sa inyong lahat.




Poor Province!!!

August 31, 2004

"The province purchased 2,165 bags of fertilizers worth P3 Million plus but the Provincial Agriculturist of this least blessed province denied his office received any fertilizer..."

In one of the press conferences I attended, a discussion arose among the media people.

            “I have a radio program in one of the local radio stations,” said proudly of a foreign-speaking newsman. The oldest among suddenly quipped, “Good that you have a radio program.” “But the question is:” grinningly he continued, “Is there anyone listening to your program?” Everyone in the group burst into laughter.

The old man did not stop there... “In like manner, I write in newspaper. But the question is: Is there anyone reading my write-ups?” A louder laughter exploded.

            Funny, isn’t it? Questioned in a serious manner, will it make sense? It will. Granting that someone is in that kind of dilemma isn’t it more appropriate to ask rather a more objective question such as, “Is my write-up in fact worth the time reading?”

            More to that, Eastern Samar, is rather pressed with more confronting questions, at least for the moment. For one, where have all the bags of NBEM-21 Granules Inoculants and Soil Activator otherwise known as fertilizers gone? The province purchased 2,165 bags of the said fertilizers worth P3 Million plus but the Provincial Agriculturist of this least blessed province, Jesus Agda, denied his office received any fertilizer from Akame Marketing International, the supplier. Where are the fertilizers?

            The previous provincial government under ex-Gov. Clotilde Salazar entered into a transaction with Akame for the purchase of 3,332 bags of NBEM worth P4,990,000.00 intended for all LGUs in the province.

            Next question would be, “Is there really such a fertilizer distributor called Akame Marketing? This writer is part of the group that tried to locate the addresses indicated in the Official Receipts issued to the Province of Eastern Samar for the purportedly delivered fertilizers but to no avail.

            What question could surpass in the controversial issue on fertilizers than “could it be that the province paid twice for the same item supposedly ordered?” How come the province issued two separate checks, each containing P3,083,700.00 for 2,165 bags? The supplier issued two separate Official Receipts for the two checks.

            The present administration of Gov. Ben Evardone should look more into this. The national government is even taking stiffer measures to lessen its expenditures and increase revenues because of the ballooning international debts and now the poor people of Eastern Samar is once again deprived of a chance to improve at least its agricultural facet by paying twice for a possibly non-existent fertilizer.

            In a later development, there had been claims that the so-called NBEM fertilizers were indeed delivered to the towns of Dolores, Can-avid and Oras. In the claim, the soil activators purportedly could not be used for the meantime because a group from the Department of Agriculture should conduct training first to farmers who will be using it. Why is it that in many interviews, people in the DA Regional Office admitted they don’t know what NBEM-21 Microbial Inoculants and Soil Activator? This writer is wondering how in the world would people not knowing about the product, could train people how to use it.

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