MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to not want to take credit for the return of the Balangiga Bells, as he said on Thursday, December 13, that no government worker should claim it as their achievement.
“Let me be very clear on this here and now. The credit of the return of the Balangiga [Bells] does not belong to any worker or officials in government. The return of the bells [was] upon the demand of the Filipino people,” he said during a speech at the birthday celebration of former Senate president Manny Villar.
“Nobody but nobody should ever claim success for that,” he added.
Duterte demanded that the United States government return the 3 historic bells during his second State of the Nation Address in 2017. But back in 1994, then Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos already made the same request to his US counterpart Bill Clinton, to no avail.
In 2014, more than 3,000 online petitioners also urged the US to return the Balangiga Bells.
Duterte to skip mass
Duterte is set to attend the handover ceremony of the 3 historic bells to the people of Balangiga town in Samar on Saturday, December 15.
However, the President said he will not attend the mass to be held for the ceremony.
“There’s going to be a high mass. I will not be there. I will just float along the coastal shores of Samar,” he said.
Duterte then repeated his grievances against the Catholic Church, particularly his experience of sexual harassment as a young man allegedly in the hands of a priest in Davao City.
"I do not want to hear the mass. I have heard all the masses inthe world," said Duterte.
The bells are set to be returned to the Balangiga church where they originally hung before they were taken by American soldiers as spoils of war.
Duterte had also skipped the turnover ceremony right after the arrival of the bells in Villamor Air Base last Tuesday, December 11. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.