Palace backtracks, says Duterte will attend Balangiga bells handover in Eastern Samar

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2018 11:00 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2018 02:36 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacañang early Thursday took back its earlier announcement and said President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the turnover of Balangiga bells in Eastern Samar.

"Due to the persistent requests from the people of Eastern Samar who look forward to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s personally bringing the Balingiga Bells to the town of Balingiga, the President has decided to attend the turnover ceremony of the Balangiga bells to the local officials on Saturday, December 15," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

He said the President made changes in his schedule to join the turnover rites at the San Lorenzo de Martir Church in Balangiga town.

The Palace earlier said Duterte will skip the ceremony to attend to “pressing matters of governance that require his utmost and immediate attention.”

The Philippine government has thanked the United States for the gesture, which it believes will formally put closure on the "tragic and contentious" episode in the history of the 2 countries.

“As the Balangiga Bells resume their ringing after a silence of more than a century, the booming sounds that will come out of them will resonate around the world with the sterling message that foreign domination nor outside intrusion on its sovereignty has no place in this part of the world,” Panelo said.

Duterte missed the return of the centuries-old bells from the US at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Tuesday. 

The religious artifacts, which were used by Filipino villagers to signal a sneak attack against its enemies, were taken by American soldiers as war booty during the Philippine-American war.