MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte will no longer attend the handover of the Balangiga Bells scheduled on Tuesday in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, Malacañang said on Monday.
Instead, the President will attend the program for the repatriation of the three bells (the two removed from Wyoming and one removed from South Korea) to town officials of Balangiga, Eastern Samar on Saturday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this decision came upon recommendation of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“The President, upon the recommendation of Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana, will no longer be attending the handover of the Balangiga bells scheduled tomorrow, December 11, in Villamor Air Base,” Panelo said in a press statement.
“The President will instead be in Samar on December 15, Saturday, to turn over the bells to Balangiga officials,” he added.
Lorenzana, in an interview, did not give any specific reason for the change in Duterte’s schedule.
He said Duterte was originally scheduled to attend the handover of the Balangiga bells from the US and skip its turnover to Balangiga officials.
Earlier, the defense chief described the bells’ return to its homeland as a closure to the dark episode in US-Philippine relations.
Malacañang has expressed enthusiasm for the return of the bells which were taken by US soldiers as “war booty” during the Filipino-American War over a century ago.
“The Palace enthusiastically awaits the arrival of the Balangiga Bells in the country on Tuesday, December 11,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press statement.
In his second State of the Nation Address last year, Duterte sought for the return of the three church bells taken from Balangiga town in Eastern Samar following the “Balangiga Massacre” in 1901.
In August this year, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) bared that the details of the possible return of the Balangiga Bells after US Defense Secretary James Mattis notified the US Congress of their intention to return them despite opposition from some American lawmakers. PNA-northboundasia.com