MANILA – A report that some members of the Catholic clergy were asked by a Presidential Management Staff (PMS) member to leave the Balangiga bells turnover before President Rodrigo Duterte’s arrival is already being probed, Malacañang said Sunday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he did not see any occurrence as described nor hear any complaint coming from the Apostolic Nuncio Gabriele Giordano Caccia.
He said he even talked to Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Romulo Valles before the President arrived at the ceremonial place in Balangiga, Eastern Samar last Saturday.
“It is absolutely out of the President’s character nor his style to cause mortifications during an event,” Panelo said in a statement.
“If it indeed happened, then the same is not authorized and such unethical conduct cannot be sanctioned by PRRD. It could have been done by someone who represented himself or herself as a staff from the PMS,” he added.
Panelo said Duterte had actually approached the Apostolic Nuncio and the CBCP president and “exchanged pleasantries with them”.
“He likewise acknowledged their presence in his brief remarks. The Chief Executive even mentioned in his speech that the Filipino nation is one with the Diocese of Borongan in celebrating this historic event,” Panelo said.
“All went well and only the uproarious rejoicing of the Balangiga people and the guests who attended was the contaminating mood at the gathering,” he added.
He said the turnover of the Balangiga bells from the United States is a time that Filipinos would celebrate and cherish “regardless of political affinitiy or religious outlook”.
“We will not allow such a reported unwanted incident to spoil this momentous occasion. The tolling of the Balangiga Bells ushers in a call of unity and peace among us Filipinos. We can only respond in heartfelt approbation,” Panelo said.
Duterte has said no single person can take credit for return of the Balangiga church bells taken away by the US soldiers as ‘war trophies’ during the Philippine-American war in 1901. (PNA)