"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 officials of government," Duterte said in a speech in Las Piñas City.
"The return of the bells [was] upon the demand of the Filipino people. Nobody but nobody should ever claim success for that. It's a property of the Roman Catholic faith."
Malacañang earlier attributed the return of the Balangiga bells to Duterte's "strong political will and unquestionable dedication in asserting the rights of our country and its people."
Won't attend Mass
For Saturday's event, the President said he would not attend the Catholic Mass.
"I'd like to order the protocol now. There's going to be a high Mass. I will not be there. I will just float along the coastal shores of Samar," he said.
"It’s going to be like this. The American government will give it back to me. Then I will give it to the local executives. And the local executives will turn it over to its rightful owner, the people of Balangiga and ‘yung pari doon. Kanila ‘yun. So hanggang dito lang ako. I do not want to hear the Mass. I have heard all the Masses in the world."
The Palace initially said Duterte would not be able to make it to Saturday's event due to "pressing matters of governance," only to take it back later.
The three bells were taken by American soldiers in September 1901 from an Eastern Samar church after their retaliatory attack on Filipino guerrillas who earlier killed 48 American soldiers in storming the 9th US Infantry Regiment during the Philippine-American War.
Source: GMA News