Updated Dec 14, 2018, 2:20:43 PM
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13) — President Rodrigo Duterte said no government worker should be credited for the return of the Balangiga bells.
In his speech at an event in Las Piñas City on Thursday, Duterte said, "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 official of government. The return of the bells were upon the demand of the Filipino people. Nobody, but nobody should ever claim success for that."
He went on to say the three bells are properties of the Catholic faith and the people of Balangiga.
The three Balangiga bells were taken by American soldiers in 1901 following a massacre where thousands of Filipinos were killed.
Historians believe one of the bells signaled the attack on American soldiers in Balangiga, Eastern Samar on September 28 of that year. The soldiers retaliated by destroying the town and killing its residents.
The bells arrived in the country on December 11, 117 years after they were taken.
The President has flip-flopped on the issue of attending the ceremonial turnover of the bells on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte would not be able to attend the ceremony citing "pressing matters of governance" needing the President's full attention.
Hours later, the Palace said he would be present.
"Due to the persistent requests from the people of Eastern Samar who look forward to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's personally bringing the Balangiga bells to the town of Balangiga, the President has decided to attend the turnover ceremony of the Balangiga bells to the local officials on Saturday, December 15," Panelo said.
Duterte, however, clarified he would not be attending the high mass during the turnover, joking that he would "just float along the coastal shores of Samar."
"I do not want to hear the mass, I have heard all the masses on the world," he added.
READ: Church opposes call to keep one Balangiga bell in National Museum