Updated Dec 13, 2018, 4:08:00 PM
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 12) — President Rodrigo Duterte will not be at the ceremonial turnover of the Balangiga bells on Saturday, December 15.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvaldor Panelo on Wednesday said "pressing matters of governance" needing the President's full attention prevent him from attending the rites to be held in Eastern Samar.
When asked what matters the President would be attending to, "Ang dami (There are many), everything in the presidency is a pressing matter."
Panelo added, "Too many work to do, too many events to attend, too many documents to read, too many people wanting to see him, and too many places to fly to."
"The President considers that more important than his physical presence at a ceremonial turnover is the fact that after 117 years, the Balangiga bells, which symbolize the bravery and patriotism of the Filipinos who refused to be subjugated by a foreign power and shed blood to assert the sovereignty of our country, have been returned to their origins where they properly belong." Panelo said. "The bells are now indeed home."
The bells were taken as war booty by American soldiers in 1901.
It is believed that one of the bells signaled the attack the Filipinos launched against American troops stationed in Balangiga town in Eastern Samar on September 28 of that year.
Forty-eight American soldiers died in the attack that American history books refer to as the Balangiga Massacre. American troops then retaliated, reportedly killing thousands of Filipinos in an even bigger massacre.