Oct 262014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2009-04-08 09:13
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #0754/01 0980913
O 080913Z APR 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000754


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2019

Classified By: Ambassdor Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador offered keynote remarks at an
April 7 ceremony honoring surviving Filipino veterans of
Bataan and Corregidor. The event, held at the Philippine
Shrine of Honor atop Mount Samat in Bataan, was attended by
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, high-ranking
Philippine military leaders, and the Japanese Ambassador. In
separate discussions on the margins of the ceremony,
President Arroyo and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of
Staff Gen. Alexander Yano spoke with the Ambassador about the
ongoing Red Cross hostage crisis, the peace process in the
southern Philippines, and other key bilateral matters. In
both her prepared remarks and in private conversation with
the Ambassador, President Arroyo expressed appreciation for a
new USG program that will compensate Filipino World War II
veterans who fought alongside U.S. troops. Arroyo also
thanked the Ambassador for the Mission’s helpful response to
the ongoing crisis involving International Committee of the
Red Cross workers held hostage by Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists
on Jolo Island. General Yano outlined the delicate balance
the AFP must find between maintaining pressure on ASG
kidnappers while minimizing risk to the ICRC hostages. END

¶2. (SBU) Speaking extemporaneously in her keynote address,
which she opened with traditional Tagalog salutations, the
Ambassador expressed heartfelt thanks to the assembled
veterans of Bataan and Corregidor, and to those who did not
survive the bitter fighting of early 1942 and the terrible
imprisonment that followed. Alluding to Easter, a primary
national holiday in ASEAN’s only Catholic-majority nation,
the Ambassador described how fitting a time it was to honor
“new beginnings borne of sacrifice,” and “the triumph of joy
over despair,” and affirmed how the heroism of Filipinos who
served alongside American troops had made possible a new era
of cooperation among the peace-loving nations of Asia.

Arroyo Conveys Deep Appreciation for Help to Filipino Vets
——————————————— ————-

¶3. (C) President Arroyo conveyed her nation’s sincere
appreciation to the Ambassador for the congressional effort
that resulted in a recently-inaugurated program, included in
the omnibus stimulus package, that will provide compensation
to Filipino World War II veterans who fought alongside
American troops in Bataan, Corregidor, and elsewhere. Arroyo
expressed her displeasure and frustration with those who have
publicly characterized the forthcoming aid to veterans as
both ungenerous and overdue. The President alluded to a
planned domestic “Volunteer Corps,” similar to America’s
Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, that she hopes
will enlist 18-24 year-old high-school and college graduates
— many of them grandchildren of vets — in strengthening the
country’s infrastructure and providing needed social services.

Delicate Balance in ICRC Hostage Crisis

¶4. (C) Referring to the ongoing crisis of International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers held hostage by Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists on Jolo Island, Arroyo
privately thanked the Ambassador for the Mission’s
sensitivity to the complexities involved in the Philippine
military’s moves to cut off the terrorists’ escape routes
while minimizing risk to the hostages.

Primacy of ASEAN Engagement

¶5. (C) Turning to the subject of ASEAN meetings to be
convened later in the week in Thailand, President Arroyo
seemed resigned to spending Holy Week away from home. (The
Philippines is the sole Christian-majority nation among
ASEAN’s 10 member states.) She recalled privately to
Ambassador the logistical difficulties in arranging
high-level ASEAN meetings during her own nation’s 2006 turn
as ASEAN chair, and expressed sympathy for Thai officials’
predicament in having to play ASEAN host during a time of
political unrest. Putting into perspective the importance
she places on greater engagement with ASEAN, Arroyo observed
resignedly that “we’ll have other Easters.”

Armed Forces’ Perspective on ICRC Hostages

¶6. (C) In a separate conversation with Ambassador on the
margins of the Bataan-Corregidor ceremony, Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano
underscored the administration’s frustration with critics

MANILA 00000754 002 OF 002

such as Philippine Red Cross Chair Sen. Richard Gordon, and
emphasized that the AFP would not accede to ASG demands that
it withdraw from positions encircling the terrorist band on
Jolo Island in the Sulu Archipelago. Yano affirmed that
Philippine forces would continue to apply pressure to the
ASG, while at the same time moving with great caution in
order to minimize the risk to the two remaining hostages. He
expressed hope for an absence of any violence during a de
facto annual informal Holy Week ceasefire with terrorists and
insurgent groups. Yano underscored how, as the hostage
crisis has progressed, public opinion has clearly shifted in
favor of military action against the ASG. The Ambassador
stressed the importance of returning Jolo to the path of
progresive and positive development. General Yano warmly
acknowledged the solid support he had received throughout the
crisis from Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto
Teodoro, who he characterized as a responsible decision-maker
who never second-guessed commanders on the battleground.

Political Posturing; Progress in Mindanao?

¶7. (C) Referring to likely presidential candidate Senator
Loren Legarda’s apparent support of baseless and inflammatory
accusations leveled by Senator Francis Pangilinan at U.S.
troops involved in the upcoming Balikatan exercise, Yano
opined that strange political posturing will become
increasingly common in the leadup to 2010 presidential
elections, adding that Legarda was someone controlled by her
politcal ambitions. Yano declined to endorse anyone among
the field of prospective presidential candidates, noting his
duty as a soldier to remain aloof from politics until his
June retirement. Turning to the AFP’s pursuit of renegade
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) bands in central
Mindanao, Yano acknowledged President Arroyo’s frustration at
the difficulty in apprehending rogue MILF commanders Umbra
Kato, Abdurahman Macapaar (a.k.a. “Commander Bravo”), and
others, but asserted that even if outlaw MILF leaders were
never captured and brought to justice, the AFP’s efforts in
Mindanao had significantly degraded the MILF’s military
strength and provided added incentive for their early return
to peace talks.

Who’s Next as AFP Chief?

¶8. (C) Yano, who will step down as AFP Chief June 13, was
noncommital regarding whether he might seek political office
after retirement — perhaps as a Congress member from
Dipolog, in his native Zamboanga del Norte Province in
Mindanao. He was more forthcoming, however, on the subject
of his possible successor, and clearly seemed to favor
Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Victor Ibrado,
while noting that Southern Luzon Commander Lt. Gen. Delfin
Bangit’s assumption of the position would pose problems due
to his lower seniority.



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