"God, what a country!"
Despite their return to their rightful place, the Balangiga bells of Eastern Samar continue to ring with controversy.
United States soldiers took them as a war booty to mark the darkest and bloodiest chapter in the history of the Philippine-American War. The Philippines protested the hauling away of the Balangiga bells, claiming these are the country’s property and the US had no right to take them away as they are symbols of the country’s fight for independence.
The Balangiga bells, according to Filipino historians, were used to warn the locals of the arrival of the American enemies in their areas and therefore were a treasured relic.
It really depends on which side of the aisle in the Phil-Am war you’re on. The Americans in their version look at the bells as the Filipino symbol of treachery when the locals attacked the Yanks who were then having breakfast in their camp.
Wielding bolos and machetes, the Filipinos exacted heavy casualties on the American side. After the massacre, the Americans retaliated. As their final act, they brought down the church bells of Balangiga and shipped two of them to Cheyenne, Wyoming. One of the bells ended in an American camp in South Korea.
Adding to the controversy was the statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will be present at the turnover ceremony of the bells in Samar but will not attend Mass to be held at the Balangiga church which is part of the ritual.
As usual, the President let loose expletives against the clergy. This only betrayed the deep scar that was left in him by the alleged fondling by a priest when he was a young boy. We have to understand the man. Sexual misconduct by priests around the globe has drawn the Vatican’s censure. It is an act certainly not to be condoned.
But forgiveness is a Christian virtue we should not expect from this President. A psychologist treating a rape victim to recover from the trauma can explain this better than anyone else. The bishops can do better than take on Duterte by exchanging vitriolic words. They should instead pray for his enlightenment. There are still two and half years left in the President’s term. Perhaps the President can still mellow with his words and change his contentious ways.
Our congressmen too can practice a little patience and composure. They bullied Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno during the hearing on the national appropriations act, blaming him for alleged insertion in the budget that favored certain parties.
No amount of badgering, however, diminished the President’s trust and confidence in Diokno. Because there is no more time to call for a special session, the national government will have to depend on a reenacted budget for its expenditures. To tackle a new budget, the legislators will have to find time for other national issues of great importance. This includes the federal form of government approved by the House not to mention that next year, the country will hold the midterm elections on May 13. Thus we see several reelectionist senators and congressmen already at the hustings and posting their poll advertisements on TV.
The Commission on Elections has not taken action on early campaigning. It has not curbed election expenditures with these TV ads. Voters should separate the chaff from the grain and weed out those who are seeking public office through their enormous wealth but hardly for their qualifications and competence. Watch those senatorial debates on TV and determine whom to vote for by what they say in their answers to debate moderators. Sometimes, however, the questions asked are just as inane as the answers given by certain candidates.
One astute political observer once said that Filipinos get the fake leaders they deserve for not voting wisely. Patronage politics is the name of the game in this country. Politicians who dole out money to constituents during times of birth, hospitalization and death are mostly remembered as the ones to vote for. Never mind if they are corrupt or don’t even know the provisions of the Constitution
This is the very foundation of the barangay and local politics which translate as ticket to national positions. God, what a country!