‘Duterte must demand return of Balangiga Bells in Tillerson meet’
President Rodrigo Duterte should demand from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the return of the Balangiga Bells to push for an independent foreign policy, a militant leader said on Saturday.
“He must use the Tillerson meeting to demand the return of the Balangiga Bells as a symbol of Filipino resistance to US colonialism,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said in a Facebook post.
Tillerson is set to meet Duterte during his visit to Manila for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum in Pasay City. He is expected to raise issues of human rights, security in Marawi City, and global security threats.
Reyes warned that Tillerson’s visit may signal an “expanded US role” in Mindanao.
“The US had taken advantage of Duterte’s predisposition to address complex issues with iron-fisted rule. The US supported martial law and offered military assistance against [Islamic State] in exchange for permanent US presence in the Philippines under the [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement],” Reyes said in a statement.
He said that Duterte has backtracked on most of his pronouncements of an independent foreign policy following the series of Islamic State-inspired attacks in Marawi City, thus allowing the US to intervene with the Philippines’ security matters.
“Duterte has fallen into the trap and has allowed his government to be an instrument of US intervention. Duterte must reject US proposals for a named military operation in the Philippines similar to Operation Enduring Freedom: Philippines in 2002,” the leader said, referring to the US’ global war on terror campaign in the Philippines. IDL
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