Fake news: US diplomat credits Duterte for return of Balangiga bells
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine news websites claiming that an American diplomat said that the historic Balangiga bells were returned to the country because of President Rodrigo Duterte is fake, a French news agency said on Friday.
The Agence France Presse (AFP) detected an “Insider” website that shared a post from US diplomat Daniel Russel saying, “We returned the Balangiga bells because of Duterte.”
The historic bells were taken by American soldiers as war trophies during the Philippine-American war in 1901.
After 117 years, the bells were returned to the Philippines and arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City last Dec. 11. It is set to arrive in Eastern Samar on Saturday.
The AFP said the fake report is a copy of a Dec. 11 article published by mainstream media ABS-CBN news, but the final two paragraphs of the original report, which contains the message of US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim was replaced with quotes from Russell.
“US diplomat Daniel Russell has stated (off-record) that the bells were returned because of Pres. Duterte’s strategy in geopolitics that made the US grant Duterte’s request of returning the Balangiga Bells,” the report stated.
In a reverse search, the AFP said Russel’s photo was taken from a 2014 article of Chinese news organization, Xinhua.
But the AFP confirmed from the US Embassy in the Philippines that Russel is no longer a diplomat.
“Daniel Russel retired from the Department of State and is therefore no longer a diplomat,” Molly Koscina, embassy press attache and spokeswoman told AFP last Dec. 13.
Russel stepped down from his post as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs last March 2017.
The AFP also noted that Russel’s LinkedIn account shows that he is currently the vice president for International Security and Diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute, a research organization.
The fake report has been shared 6,000 times by Facebook pages and groups supporting Duterte with more than two million followers as per CrowdTangle data. /ee
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.