Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2490.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2490
2009-12-02 08:16
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO4939
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DE RUEHML #2490/01 3360816
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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5951
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002490

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/02/2019
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KJUS RP
SUBJECT: 100 PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANTS, BUT ONLY FOUR REAL CONTENDERS

REF: A. MANILA 2428 (TICKETS TAKE SHAPE)
¶B. MANILA 2218 (ERAP DECLARES)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reason: 1.4 (b and d).

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) After a final flurry of filings December 1, the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) closed out its election
registration period by announcing it had received 98
applications from presidential candidates. Of course the
number of credible presidential aspirants amounts to a mere
handful of candidates, and COMELEC predicts numerous
disqualifications in the coming weeks. Senator Benigno
“Noynoy” Aquino III remains the front-runner in all polls,
though Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar fielded the largest
slate of Senatorial picks for his Nacionalista party. Former
President Joseph Estrada registered his candidacy, and a
rival quickly challenged his eligibility; Estrada’s case will
likely end up in the Supreme Court, where he will face an
uphill battle. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo filed to
run for a congressional seat in Pampanga province,
exacerbating her detractors’ concerns about her intentions.
Arroyo’s plan to remain politically active likely complicates
the campaign of ruling party candidate Gilberto Teodoro, who
will now find it more difficult to distance himself from the
unpopular Arroyo. Star boxer Manny Pacquiao and family
members of former President Marcos, including former First
Lady Imelda Marcos, have also registered to run for
legislative offices. End Summary.

CANDIDATES REGISTER
——————-

¶2. (SBU) Commission on Elections (COMELEC) staff told us
December 2 that COMELEC offices received 98 candidacy
applications from presidential aspirants by the registration
deadline of midnight on December 1. Philippine law allows
candidacies that are not backed by a political party, so the
hurdle for filing is low. The vast majority of the 98 are
not likely to draw meaningful support from the electorate;
some are political unknowns. A COMELEC official publicly
predicted that COMELEC would be able to vet the candidacies
by the end of December and likely would disqualify a majority
of the applicants; he predicted 25 might make the final cut.
(In 2004, 84 candidates filed to run for the presidency; only
seven received COMELEC approval. The COMELEC has the
authority to disqualify candidates who appear frivolous or
unable to run a national campaign.)

¶3. (C) Credible polling organizations have not publicly
released new data since ref A reported Senator Benigno
“Noynoy” Aquino III’s commanding lead. On November 24,
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero announced he would not run
for election to an executive branch position in 2010.
(Escudero’s term as Senator expires in 2013.) We believe
that, were the election to take place under current
conditions, voters who favored Escudero would likely move
disproportionately to Aquino. Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar
appears to remain Aquino’s primary credible challenger.

FORMER PRESIDENT FILES PAPERS
—————————–

¶4. (C) The most recent polls also indicated double-digit
support for former President Joseph Estrada, who formally
registered his presidential candidacy on November 30. As
expected, a political opponent filed a challenge, citing
constitutional restrictions on a President running for
reelection (for background, see ref B). It is nclear
whether the COMELEC will favor Estrada or he challenger,
but, whichever way COMELEC decide, the disadvantaged party
appears likely to appel COMELEC’s ruling to the Supreme
Curt.

¶5. (C) We met on December 2 with Christian Monsod, a former
COMELEC Chairman and drafter of the current constitution.
Monsod believed that the Supreme Court could easily
disqualify Estrada, relying on the plain meaning of the
constitution’s prohibition on reelection. (Article VII,
Section 4 of the constitution reads: “The President shall not
be eligible for any reelection.”) Furthermore, the drafters
had considered a prohibition on “immediate reelection” before
agreeing to prohibit “any reelection.” Therefore, Monsod
said, the record of the drafters’ deliberations would further

MANILA 00002490 002 OF 003

demonstrate intent to disqualify a candidate such as Estrada.
Nevertheless, Monsod conceded that it was not impossible for
the Court to decide that this question could be left up to
the voters to resolve by allowing Estrada to run for
reelection.

THE PRESIDENT RUNS FOR CONGRESS
——————————-

¶6. (C) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, meanwhile, filed
papers with COMELEC in order to run for a congressional seat
in her home province of Pampanga. Numerous commentators have
noted there is no precedent for a Philippine President to
seek a lower elected position. Many suspect Arroyo aims to
win election as Speaker of the House, primarily in order to
use the influence associated with that position to protect
herself and her family from accusations of corruption.
Noting previous trial balloons from the President’s allies
about undertaking constitutional reform, and possibly
shifting from a presidential to a parliamentary system, some
believe Arroyo’s ultimate goal is to restructure the
government in order that she can once again become the
nation’s chief executive.

¶7. (C) After Arroyo filed her candidacy papers, former
President Fidel Ramos publicly criticized Arroyo’s move. In
unusually blunt language, Ramos said that Arroyo should
resign the presidency. Under current circumstances, she
would have unfair advantages in her congressional race; the
election would distract her from her presidential duties; and
she would “diminish the stature of the presidency.”

¶8. (C) Widespread suspicions of Arroyo’s intentions, and her
candidacy in the coming election, will likely hamper the
efforts of Gilberto Teodoro, the presidential candidate of
the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party, to distance himself from
the unpopular President. (September survey data from
credible polling organization Social Weather Stations showed
Arroyo had a 23 percent approval rating, and a 62 percent
disapproval rating.) Arroyo recently resigned as
Lakas-Kampi-CMD Chair, ceding that position to Teodoro. With
Arroyo remaining in the political arena, however, it may be
difficult for Filipinos to believe Teodoro will define his
own agenda rather than simply serve Arroyo’s interests.

¶9. (C) Posing yet another challenge to the cohesion of the
ruling party, former Metropolitan Manila Develop Authority
Chairman Bayani Fernando has deserted the Arroyo camp and
teamed up with Senator Richard Gordon, forming a rival ticket
headed by Gordon. It is unclear whether Bayani, who had
challenged Teodoro for the Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential
nomination, will bring much of his former party’s machinery
with him, but his registration for the vice presidential race
further demonstrates wide cracks in the party.

MARCOS FAMILY CANDIDATES
————————

¶10. (C) The 2010 election will also allow voters the chance
to elect three members of former President Ferdinand Marcos’
immediate family to office. Former First Lady Imelda Marcos
registered to run for a congressional seat from the province
of Ilocos Norte. Her son, Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos, Jr.,
is running on a Villar-backed slate for the Senate, and her
daughter, Imee Marcos, will stand for election as Governor of
Ilocos Norte. Ilocos Norte being a stronghold of the Marcos
family, the Marcos women are well positioned to win their
races; Bong-Bong Marcos is less certain of victory, since
Senators compete on a nationwide basis.

MANNY PACQUIAO IN ANOTHER ARENA
——————————-

¶11. (SBU) Riding a wave of popular enthusiasm, star boxer
Manny Pacquiao has registered to run for Congress in the
southern province of Sarangani. It is unclear whether
widespread speculation about his friendship with actress
Krista Ranillo, which has rankled Pacquiao’s wife, will
hinder the boxer’s prospects for election. Pacquiao’s
previous run for a Congressional seat from General Santos
city ended in a rare defeat for the boxing champ, as he lost
out to diminutive, politically savvy Darlene
Antonino-Custodio, deputy minority leader in the House of
Representatives. The move to more rural Sarangani could
boost Pacquiao’s chances for victory.

MANILA 00002490 003 OF 003

COMMENT
——-

¶12. (C) Although the registration deadline has passed,
COMELEC prohibits candidates for national office from
campaigning until February. Nevertheless, the media has
ample material for its coverage of the political fray: angst
over Arroyo’s intentions, Estrada’s legal battle, prospects
for continued violence in the South, and the antics of
inconsequential-but-colorful candidates. In this context, it
may be difficult for Villar, Teodoro, or some other rival to
focus public attention on a message that would allow any of
them to draw within striking range of Aquino.
KENNEY

   

 

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