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The news report quoting a Balangiga priest that a member of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS)
asked some of the members of the Catholic clergy present in yesterday's turnover of the Balangiga bells
to leave the event before the President's arrival is being probed.

I was present at the Balangiga turnover ceremonies before and after the President’s arrival at the venue
but I did not see any occurrence as described nor hear any complaint coming from the Apostolic Nuncio
and the CBCP President whom I talked to just before the President arrived at the ceremonial place. It is
absolutely out of the President's character nor his style to cause mortifications during an event. If it
indeed happened, then the same is not authorized and such unethical conduct can not be sanctioned by
PRRD. It could have been done by someone who represented himself or herself as a staff from the PMS.

The priests were seated in the same place before and after the arrival of PRRD. His Excellency Gabriele
Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio of the Philippines and Most Reverend Archbishop Romulo Valles, President of
the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), among others, were seated in the front row
and PRRD approached them 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. All went well and only the
uproarious rejoicing of the Balangiga people and the guests who attended was the contaminating mood
at the gathering.

This is a time when all Filipinos, regardless of political affinitiy or religious outlook, come together and
rejoice an event which we had long sought - and hoped for. 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.

Salvador S. Panelo
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel
& Presidential Spokesperson