Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 000286
DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/PMBS, AND PM
NSC FOR GREEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/18/2013
TAGS: MOPS MARR PREL PTER PINS RP
SUBJECT: AFP/DND TALKS PRODUCE PROGRESS ON COUNTERTERRORISM
Classified By: Political Officer Paul O’Friel
for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. USPACOM’s January 12-14 working level
meetings with Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) counterparts succeeded in
developing a range of enhanced US-GRP counterterrorism
scenarios that should set the stage for further in-depth
discussions. The talks were a direct result of Secretary of
National Defense Cruz’s earlier discussions with Admiral
Fargo. The DND, which appears to be out in front of the AFP
on this issue, recognizes it must do more in terms of public
communications strategy. END SUMMARY.
LEGAL COUNSELS: VFA COVERS PROPOSED ENHANCED COOPERATION
¶2. (C) In follow up to Secretary of National Defense Cruz’s
December 13, 2004 talks with Admiral Fargo, USPACOM and
AFP/DND counterparts held staff discussions January 12-14 to
develop a clear set of maritime and land scenarios covering
the range of options for U.S. counterterrorism assistance.
According to the interpretation of the DND legal staff, the
Visiting Forces Agreement will cover the RP-U.S.
counterterrorism cooperation envisaged in the scenarios.
Attorney Norman Daanoy, Chief of the DND’s Office of Legal
Affairs, in a January 13 legal brief to Secretary Cruz,
argued that, while prohibited from engaging in combat except
in self-defense, U.S. forces in the Philippines could engage
in a range of “combat-related activities,” to include
providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
support to the AFP.
¶3. (C) Attorney Jose Pascual, Secretary Cruz’s Legal
Counsel, seconded this view in talks with U.S. counterparts,
noting the Philippine Supreme Court (Lim vs. Executive
Secretary, 380 SCRA 742) explicitly “authorized” U.S. forces
to assist, advise, and train GRP counterparts. “What we are
now trying to do,” he said, “is push the envelope in respect
to combat-related activities.” Pascual, who previously
worked for Cruz as a member of the Malacanang legal staff,
noted, however, any proposed activity should fall under “the
rubric of exercise” because of the difficulty the word
“operation” posed for the Filipino side.
AFP NEEDS REASSURANCE, BUT WORKS THROUGH SCENARIOS
¶4. (C) AFP participants repeatedly sought clarity from
Daanoy and Pascual as to the legal definition of
“combat-related activities.” Once the AFP staff understood
the concept, they developed a range of realistic scenarios
that should set the stage for further in-depth discussions
set for February 2005.
¶5. (C) In talks with USPACOM Counterterrorism Branch Head
CAPT Daniel Prince on the margins of the January 12-14
meetings, Colonel Charlie Holganza, Cruz’s senior military
advisor, cautioned it was important to proceed carefully.
“We need U.S. assistance, but we can’t move too fast for our
own good,” Holganza said, noting that his government was
focused on eliminating Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists but
also needed to preserve the peace process with the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He commented that “We have
to target terrorists in places where we can ensure there is
no big backlash.”
¶6. (C) Holganza also emphasized the Philippine side had to
ensure it had a legal framework in place to support the
scenarios. DND staff separately said they recognized the
need to build backing for the initiative, and planned to
launch a public communications effort entitled “Freedom from
Fear” that would demonstrate the benefits of enhanced U.S.-RP
¶7. (C) COMMENT: Cruz clearly has already focused his staff
on exploring ways to broaden counterterrorism cooperation
with the United States within the perceived limits of the
Philippine constitution. However, it was also apparent from
the initial reluctance of the AFP to engage in discussions
that the DND needs to devote further effort to its
communications strategy to build the necessary support —
both internal and external — for enhanced US-RP
counterterrorism cooperation. While encouraged by Secretary
Cruz’s forward leaning stance on this issue, we believe
continued progress will require careful, patient engagement
with our GRP counterparts.