Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his desire to fight for the rights and welfare of the Filipinos during his speech at the 118th Balangiga Day Commemoration in Balangiga, Eastern Samar on Saturday, September 28.
The Balangiga encounter was a successful surprise attack carried out by Filipino fighters against the US troops during the Philippine-American War. It is considered by historians as one of the greatest displays of the bravery of the Filipinos fighting for their freedom.
In his message, the senator said that the victory of Filipinos in Balangiga is a testament to their bravery, dignity and love of country.
“Sa araw na ito, ipinamalas ng ating mga ninuno sa Balangiga ang kanilang katapangan upang ipaglaban ang ating kalayaan at kasarinlan mula sa mga Amerikano,” Go said.
“Matagal mang tapos na ang digmaan at malaya na tayo mula sa ating mga mananakop, sana po ay patuloy na magsilbing inspirasyon sa atin ang engkwentro sa Balangiga. Pruweba po ito ng katapangan at karangalan ng ating lahing Pilipino,” he added.
Go also noted that there is much more to celebrate this year with the historic Balangiga bells being finally back in the country after 117 years.
“Doble po ang selebrasyon natin ngayon dahil ito ang kauna-unahang Balangiga Encounter Day Commemoration na kapiling na natin ang mga makasaysayang Balangiga bells,” said Go.
For decades, the Philippine government had consistently asked the United States to return the historical artifacts, which were taken by American soldiers as “spoils of war” from the Balangiga church in 1901.
During his 2017 State of the Nation address, President Rodrigo Duterte again demanded the return of the bells. Calling it as a move “to forge stronger friendship with the Philippines”, the US agreed to return the bells which returned home in December last year.
The senator, in his message, detailed how the journey of their return was initiated by the President.
“There was one time, nagha-hapunan kami ni Pangulong Duterte kasama ang isang doktor. Napunta ang usapan namin sa Balangiga bells na noon ay nasa Amerika pa,” Go said.
“Nasabi nung doktor sa Pangulo, ‘Atin ‘yung mga kampana na ‘yun. Sa Pilipinas ‘yun. Dapat ibalik sa atin,’” he added.
Go commended the political will of the President as instrumental for the return of the bells.
“Dito mo makikita ang political will niya. Sa SONA niya noong 2017, talagang inutusan niya ang Amerika na ibalik sa atin ‘yung mga kampana,” said Go.
He added, “Kaya naman noong nakaraang taon, buwan ng Disyembre, sa wakas, naibalik sa ating bansa ang tatlong Balangiga bells. Naibalik sa atin ang mga ito dahil sa katapangan ng Pangulo at pagmamahal niya sa ating bansa.”
The senator, who was the aide of the President for more than twenty years, said he plans to emulate his bravery and strong leadership.
“Alam po ninyo, strong leader ang Pangulo. Kapag nagsalita ‘yan, talagang nasusunod. Nakita niyo naman, kahit Amerika, walang nagawa kung hindi isauli sa atin ‘yung mga kampana.”
“Bilang mentor ko, marami po akong natutunan sa kanya. He is my inspiration in public service. Kaya naman ngayong nasa Senado na ako, ipinapangako ko po sa inyo na, tulad niya, magiging matapang na boses din ako ng mga Pilipino,” Go said.
During the event, Go also commented on the news that the US Senate panel approved an amendment in an appropriations bill that will ban Philippine government officials involved in the detention of Senator Leila De Lima. He said he condemns such act of the some American senators.
“Nakakaloko kayo. I condemn this act by a handful US senators that seeks to ban officials of the Philippine government involved in the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima,” said Go.
“It is an affront to our sovereignty and to our ability to govern ourselves. It unduly pressures our independent courts and disrespects the entire judicial process of the Philippines by questioning its competence,” he added. Go also said that the senators who proposed the initiative must also be banned in the Philippines.
“I will suggest to President Duterte to ban American legislators from entering our country for interfering in our internal affairs. These senators think they know better than us in governing ourselves,” said Go.
He added, “I recall one particular incident in in Davao City when an American citizen hit my car in a vehicular accident. He was arrogant and shameless. He refused to produce his driver’s license when asked by our traffic enforcers.”
Go also stressed that De Lima’s detention is in accordance to Philippine laws.
“Sen. Leila de Lima is being detained upon lawful order of an independent court after a careful and thorough determination of her case. Her detention, arising from her involvement in illegal drugs, was affirmed by no less than the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines.”
Amid all these moves to interfere in the country’s sovereignty, Go also vowed to fight for the rights of all Filipinos, just like the President.
“Katulad ni Pangulong Duterte, ipaglalaban ko ang ating mga karapatan. Kasama ng mga kapwa nating Pilipino, asahan niyong ipaglalaban ko ang dignidad at kapakanan ng mga kababayan ko,” said Go. He added that he and the President are willing to go to jail for the Filipinos.
“Willing po kami na makulong para sa mga Pilipino, para ipaglaban ang inyong mga karapatan,” declared Go.
In the same manner that the President fought for the return of the historical artifacts, the senator also said that he will dedicate the same passion to bring peace and progress to the country.
“Katulad ng Balangiga bells, hindi kami titigil hangga’t hindi natin nakakamit ang kaunlaran at kapayapaan na matagal na nating inaasam.”