The Latest: Duterte asks US to return 3 church bells

AP News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2017 7:10 AM
The Latest: Duterte asks US to return 3 church bells

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Latest on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's state of the nation speech (all times local):

6 p.m.

Taking a snipe at the United States in his state of the nation address, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked America to return three church bells seized as spoils of war from the eastern Philippine village of Balangiga more than a century ago.

"Give us back those Balangiga bells," Duterte said in his speech at the House of Representatives, attended by the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats. "They are part of our national heritage ... return it to us, this is painful for us."

Duterte, who calls himself a socialist, has had an antagonistic attitude toward the U.S. while bolstering ties with China and Russia.

Filipinos revere the Balangiga bells as symbols of their long struggle for independence. The bells gave the signal for insurgents to attack American soldiers who were occupying Balangiga after the U.S. took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.

Two of the three bells are displayed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They are part of a memorial to 46 U.S. troops killed by Filipino insurgents in 1901. A third bell is with a U.S. Army regiment in South Korea.

Talk about returning the bells has been a perennial issue in U.S.-Philippine relations.

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5 p.m.

Despite international and domestic criticism, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he will not stop his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs and warns that addicts and dealers have two choices: jail or hell.

Thousands of suspects have perished during the anti-drug campaign he launched after being sworn into office in June last year, sparking widespread criticism and threats of prosecution.

"Do not try to scare me with prison or the International Court of Justice," he said Monday in his annual state of the nation address. "I'm willing to go to prison for the rest of my life."

He reiterated his plea that Congress reimpose the death penalty for drug offenders and others.

"The fight will not stop until those who deal in (drugs) understand that they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell," Duterte said, to applause from his national police chief, Ronald del Rosa, and other supporters in the audience.

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4 p.m.

Waving red flags, several thousand left-wing protesters have marched with an effigy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the House of Representatives to demand he deliver on promises made in his first state of the nation speech last year, from holding peace talks with communist insurgents to improving internet speed.

Riot police, without batons and shields to underscore a policy of maximum tolerance toward demonstrators, separated the protesters from a smaller group of Duterte supporters outside the heavily guarded building, where Duterte delivered this year's state of the nation speech on Monday.

Inside the hall, left-wing legislators sought ingenious ways to protest. Rep. Emmie de Jesus, who represents the Gabriela women's party-list group, wore native clothes with beadwork reading "Regular Jobs Now," a criticism of contractual work without benefits.

Another lawmaker, Arlene Brosas, wore a black dress with a hand-painted message by a former political prisoner saying "No to Martial Law." Duterte won congressional approval on Saturday for an extension of martial law in the south to deal with the siege of Marawi city by pro-Islamic State group militants, the worst crisis he has faced since taking power last year.