Sep 152014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA1099 2007-04-04 08:48 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #1099/01 0940848
O 040848Z APR 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001099



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/04/2017


Classified By: Pol/C Scott Bellard, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (SBU) Summary. Communist forces remained active in
Bulacan province, but military and police efforts, together
with relative prosperity, increasingly limit their sphere of
influence. Police in particular face an overall lack of
resources. Civil-military relations and the overall human
rights situation appear to have improved following a 2006
change in the military command. End summary.

New People’s Army Thin on the Ground but Active
——————————————— —

¶2. (SBU) During a recent consular outreach mission to
Bulacan province in Central Luzon, emboff met with officials
and others to discuss the local implications of the
long-standing Communist insurgency of the New People’s Army
(NPA). According to provincial officials of the Philippine
National Police (PNP), as of early 2007 the NPA in Bulacan
could muster only an estimated 300 regular (full-time) and
another 200 “part-time” guerrillas. There has reportedly
been no increase of Bulacan’s NPA cadres in the last five
years. PNP Col. Ronaldo de Jesus commented that the
guerrillas preferred to operate along the province’s
boundaries, because the PNP was reluctant to engage in “hot
pursuit” across provincial borders, and even had difficulty
coordinating between police districts. Col. de Jesus
admitted that the result was greater freedom by the NPA to
maneuver to neighboring Pampaga and Quezon provinces, while
maintaining little geographic depth. The NPA’s very
mobility, however, meant that it dominated perhaps only one
of Bulacan’s hundreds of “barangays” (townships). Even
without a full-time presence, NPA cadres nonetheless
continued to extort “revolutionary taxes” from local
landowners — especially fish farmers, who were particularly
vulnerable due to their relative isolation in coastal areas.
De Jesus noted that few NPA regulars were Bulacan natives,
which Bulacan Governor Jessie de la Cruz separately
speculated was likely due to Bulacan’s relative prosperity.

Separate Roles for PNP and AFP

¶3. (SBU) PNP resources are limited in combating the NPA.
According to the chief of Task Force Lingap Col. Gatchalian,
total PNP strength in Bulacan numbered a little over 1,000,
most lightly armed and with limited transport capabilities.
In Guiguinto town, there were only 27 officers for a
population of 73,000. PNP pursued murder charges against the
NPA whenever possible, but getting witnesses and evidence to
solve cases remained problematic, according to Col Gatchalian
and other PNP officers. Accordingly, the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) had the lead on counterinsurgency efforts
in Bulacan, notably the 703rd Brigade and attached 57th
Infantry Battalion, both subordinate to the 7th Infantry
Division. According to Col. Gatchalian, the AFP’s more
recent strategy of staying in an area for six months or more
has had a positive effect, leading civilians to feel less
inclined to cooperate with the NPA. Officials admitted that
the success of this strategy has been largely dependent on
the individual commander and his relations with the civilian

A Role for the Church

¶4. (C) Catholic Bishop of Bulacan Jose Oliveros told emboff
that he actively promoted political neutrality, while noting
that he felt free to voice his concerns with the government.
To prevent his clergy from being targeted by the NPA (or the
AFP), he said that he frequently reminded the clergy of the
importance of maintaining political neutrality. Among the
240 Catholic clergy in his bishopric, two were politically
active leftists, including one who was a formal member of the
party-list group “Bayan Muna.” Bishop Oliveros said that he
had strongly urged the two to renounce their involvement with
political causes, but at least one of his priests had
received death threats in 2006. The Bishop added that he had
also requested the AFP to refrain from using Catholic chapels
to deliver lectures to the public about the Communist
insurgency, as well as indirectly requesting the NPA also to
stop using churches for overnight refuge. Both sides have
now complied, according to the Bishop. However, he admitted
that the Church continued to offer occasional sanctuary for
individuals who have received death threats.

¶5. (C) Bishop Oliveros laid specific blame on now-retired
AFP General Jovito Palparan, the previous commander of the
7th Infantry Division, for promoting unlawful killings as a
counterinsurgency tactic. The Bishop described a “chilling”

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meeting with General Palparan in 2006, during which the
general had claimed that killings were “sometimes necessary”
to stop a “greater evil.” Bishop Oliveros commented
carefully that the AFP should take some responsibility for at
least some of the unlawful killings.

Pressure to be “White”

¶6. (C) Governor de la Cruz separately also criticized
General Palparan, noting that she knew about his “track
record” prior to becoming 7th Infantry Division commander.
She said she had specifically warned him against using a
similar strategy of targeting leftists in Bulacan. She
lamented that civilian-military relations went to a new low
during his tenure, and noted that ties vastly improved with
the arrival of General Gomez as Region Three Commander. The
governor underscored that disappearances and killings in
Bulacan had abated quickly after General Palparan’s departure
in September 2006, an observation that she said statistics
from the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
confirmed: 15 political killings and 13 involuntary
disappearances during General Palparan’s two year tenure as
commander, with only two political killings and one
disappearance in the six months following his retirement.
Governor de la Cruz complained about being under political
pressure to classify her province as “white,” or clear of
insurgent activity. Given continued NPA activity, and AFP
counterinsurgency efforts against the NPA, she said that she
would continue to refuse to do so.

¶7. (C) Comment: The NPA remains a deadly if declining
presence in many provinces, despite the AFP’s efforts to
promote a greater “hearts and minds” component to its
counterinsurgency operations. The litany of allegations
against General Palparan are long-standing, but the
Commission on Human Rights and the Melo Commission both
concluded that there was a lack of solid evidence directly
linking him to unlawful killings for any legal complicity.
Chief of Staff General Esperon’s February 4 directive
(reftel) reminding the AFP commanders of their
chain-in-command responsibility vis-a-vis unlawful killings
should strongly help to discourage possible acquiescence by
AFP officers in their subordinates’ involvement in such
illegal acts.

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