Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/12/08MANILA2727.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2727
2008-12-16 05:49
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO7067
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DE RUEHML #2727/01 3510549
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 160549Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2693
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002727

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2018
TAGS: PGOV EAID PINR PREL PHUM KISL RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR AND DEFENSE SECRETARY DISCUSS SECURITY IN SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES

REF: MANILA 2677

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a December 15 private breakfast with
the Ambassador, Philippine Secretary of National Defense
Gilberto Teodoro discussed the security situation in the
southern Philippines and the discipline the Armed Forces of
the Philippines are showing in the face of continued clashes
with terrorist groups and rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front
elements. Teodoro emphasized the success the Philippine
military was having against rogue MILF commands in Mindanao,
whose attacks against civilians and government forces in
August displaced thousands and disrupted the ceasefire
between the government and MILF. At the same time, Teodoro
noted that a series of armed encounters on Basilan stem from
deeply rooted problems with local governance on the island
that will require additional attention from the government to
resolve. On Jolo island, Teodoro said the Philippine Marines
were performing well there and raised this year’s rise in
drug seizures as a potential trend in terrorist financing
that bore watching. Commenting on the political situation,
Teodoro said the Philippine military was behaving
professionally, and that he was convinced the Armed Forces
would stay out of politics. Teodoro voiced his approval of
Undersecretary Rafael Seguis being named the new head of the
government’s peace panel and said that President Arroyo was
eager to announce a resumption of talks with the MILF.
Teodoro thanked the Ambassador for USG disaster relief over
the last year and said that the Philippines was working to
host a successful ASEAN Regional Forum disaster relief
exercise next May. END SUMMARY.

——————————————— —
AFP FOCUSED ON MISSION, RESPECTING HUMAN RIGHTS
——————————————— —

¶2. (C) During breakfast with the Ambassador on December 15,
Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro
lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP)
professional performance in central Mindanao, saying military
forces were continuing to conduct targeted operations against
rogue MILF commanders, while maintaining discipline and
avoiding civilian casualties. Teodoro clearly was pleased
with the AFP’s ability to restore order to the areas affected
by violence, while making a deliberate effort to protect
civilians. Noting that recent polling showed the AFP as
having moved from negative to positive in terms of public
perception, the Ambassador raised the issue of human rights
and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) with Teodoro, emphasizing
the importance of eliminating any EJKs and maintaining the
support of the population by promoting a military that fully
respects human rights. Teodoro agreed that it was imperative
to continue improvements, stressing he personally had visited
detainees in AFP custody and that they were being treated
well.

————-
PEACE PROCESS
————-

¶3. (C) On the stalled peace process with the MILF, Teodoro
told the Ambassador that the recent appointment of Department
of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis as the
government’s chief negotiator was a wise choice and that
President Arroyo was eager to announce the resumption of
peace talks, as soon as conditions were right. While
observing that President Arroyo is committed to restarting
peace negotiations with MILF leadership, Teodoro questioned
the utility of negotiations when MILF leadership could not
control its own commanders. The Ambassador emphasized the
need to end the fighting so that tens of thousands of
displaced persons could return to their homes.

—————————–
LACK OF GOVERNANCE ON BASILAN
—————————–

¶4. (C) Teodoro voiced his concern that the lack of
governance on Basilan island is the root of the recent
clashes between the AFP and lawless elements that “hide
behind the MILF so they can’t be touched.” Discussing
December 7 engagements between the AFP and Abu Sayyaf Group
(ASG) members on Basilan that killed and wounded dozens
(reftel), Teodoro said that weak and ineffective local
government is contributing to a situation that allows
criminals and terrorists on the island to conduct frequent

MANILA 00002727 002 OF 003

kidnappings and attack government groups. Teodoro thanked
the Ambassador for U.S. support, saying it had been “just
right, low key, and off the front lines,” — a reference to
U.S. assistance in evaluating intelligence before the
offensive and evacuating wounded soldiers from the area. The
Ambassador agreed that Basilan still was in need of USG
development assistance to strengthen communities and
suggested to Teodoro that a renewed focus on infrastructure
projects from the Philippine government would pay great
dividends in reducing support for the ASG.

———————-
JOLO: DRUGS A CONCERN
———————-

¶5. (C) Turning to Jolo island, Teodoro said the Marines
under Major General Juancho Sabban had been doing a good job
keeping terrorists off balance, despite recent ambushes and
sporadic attacks by a handful of high value individuals on
the island. The Ambassador congratulated Teodoro on a
December 7 strike (reftel) against a known ASG camp that
disrupted terrorist operations on Jolo. Teodoro highlighted
a November 10 discovery of a large marijuana plantation on
Jolo, the fourth significant seizure of marijuana on Jolo and
in surrounding waters, as an example of increasing
cooperation between military and law enforcement to interdict
a potential source of funding for terrorists. The Ambassador
said that the USG was following the issue of drug production
and trafficking in the southern Philippines closely and would
continue to provide assistance to Philippine authorities.

—————————————-
AFP COMMITTED TO STAYING OUT OF POLITICS
—————————————-

¶6. (C) Teodoro acknowledged that the military was still
receiving overtures from political naysayers to flex its
muscle in the ongoing struggle between President Arroyo and
the opposition. However, he emphasized that the AFP was
committed to remaining out of politics and that Chief of the
Armed Forces General Yano had assured him of the military’s
nonpartisan stance. Teodoro said that, as in the past,
certain “troublemakers” have periodically attempted to
capitalize on dissatisfaction within the military over
personnel issues, but he said the focus on military reform
had addressed many of these underlying inequities, resulting
in higher morale among the troops and firm support for
President Arroyo.

—————
DISASTER RELIEF
—————

¶7. (C) With this year’s typhoon season ending, Secretary
Teodoro said he thought U.S.-Philippine cooperation on
disaster relief had gone very well in 2008 and that he hoped
the USG could enhance its efforts next year. The Ambassador
said the U.S. was always glad to provide assistance when
possible, and stressed that a more streamlined process for
aircraft and ship clearances would facilitate not only U.S.
disaster relief operations in the Philippines, but provide
greater flexibility for U.S. ships and aircraft involved in
bilateral activities. Teodoro said his team would be working
closely with the Embassy to make the process easier for
everyone. On Philippine disaster relief capabilities,
Teodoro said capabilities have increased, most notably with
the creation of a new National Disaster Coordinating Council
operations center, which Teodoro was inaugurating later in
the day. Teodoro also said that planning for the ASEAN
Regional Forum disaster relief exercise to be held in the
Philippines in May 2009 was progressing well and that he
expected involvement from a wide range of ASEAN nations.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) A potential presidential candidate in 2010, Teodoro
is an active Defense Secretary. He is also a hawk on
Mindanao, supporting targeted military action in the Sulu
Archipelago and Central Mindanao. Teodoro questions the
value of talks at this stage with the MILF, but respects
President Arroyo’s desire to return to negotiations. As with
several cabinet members, Teodoro believes Malaysia has
overplayed its hand as the facilitator of the MILF
negotiations. We continue to keep Philippine officials
focused on military action against ASG and Jemaah Islamiyah

MANILA 00002727 003 OF 003

terrorists, while encouraging them to end the fighting with
rogue MILF commands in Central Mindanao, which has displaced
tens of thousands of people.
KENNEY

   

 

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