Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2613.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2613
2009-12-23 02:54
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6107
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002613

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM KJUS KCRM EAID ASEC RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES ELECTIONS, MASSACRE, AND BILATERAL TIES WITH INTERIOR SECRETARY PUNO

REF: MANILA 2448 (CLAN VIOLENCE)

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

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) In a December 21 farewell call on Interior and Local
Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, the Ambassador stressed
U.S. neutrality in upcoming Philippine elections, interest in
accountability for the recent massacre in Maguindanao
province, and appreciation for Philippine cooperation in law
enforcement matters. Puno discussed his shock on learning of
the scope of the Ampatuan clan’s accumulation of wealth and
weaponry. He expressed deep appreciation for training and
assistance from the FBI and Regional Security Office, as well
as for intelligence cooperation, and he shared thoughts on
future areas on which we might focus training. Puno said he
worried about election mechanics, but he saw progress in some
efforts to ensure a peaceful election environment. He
discussed leading presidential candidates as well as the
negative impact on the government when key cabinet members
resign to stand for election. End Summary.

MAGUINDANAO
———–

¶2. (C) The Ambassador on December 21 paid a farewell call on
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno. The
Ambassador thanked Puno for his cooperation and the insights
he had shared with her, most recently during discussions of
the massacre in Maguindanao province (reftel). Puno said the
cabinet had been genuinely shocked by the amount of wealth
and weaponry that Maguindanao’s Ampatuan clan had
accumulated. Although Puno acknowledged it was common
knowledge that the Ampatuans had a sizeable militia, the
government had not known, for example, that this militia
maintained four tanks. Puno also related that, on a visit to
the United States, at least one leading member of the
Ampatuan family had been delayed at the American port of
entry for bringing 200,000 USD in cash.

¶3. (C) The Ampatuans had been expanding their influence well
beyond Maguindanao province, Puno related. The clan had been
providing financial backing to candidates running in the Jolo
and Basilan gubernatorial elections, among others. Puno
believed the accumulation of power and impunity by the
Ampatuans reflected poorly on the governance capacity of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

¶4. (C) Puno explained that the Armed Forces of the
Philippines continued to pursue 300-400 armed followers of
the Ampatuans. He said the government had taken an unpopular
step by transferring police officials under Ampatuan
influence from their posts, and it had been difficult to find
a non-Ampatuan who was willing to serve as Acting Governor,
because many feared possible retaliation by the clan. He
observed that current Acting Governor Nariman Ambolodto was
actually from Shariff Kabunsuan, an area that had split from
Maguindanao in 2006 before being reincorporated in 2008, and
her roots might make it difficult for her to retain support
from the local population for her service as Acting Governor.

¶5. (C) The Ambassador said she was closely following the
security situation in Maguindanao, and the Embassy was
reviewing ways in which it might be able to provide further
development assistance there. Puno welcomed the prospect of
further USG efforts on behalf of the people of Maguindanao.
The Ambassador encouraged the government to focus on ensuring
speedy and fair trials of those responsible for the massacre.
Puno promised that the Department of Justice was taking the
trials seriously and the cases would be handled in a
transparent manner.

ELECTIONS
———

¶6. (C) Puno said that the May 2010 elections would pose a
tremendous challenge to the government. He worried about the
functionality of machines to be used for automated vote
tabulation, and about the lack of voter education to date.
He also believed there was a significant possibility of
violence during the election. Puno said he hoped that
Filipinos would either surrender or register their

MANILA 00002613 002 OF 002

privately-owned firearms in advance of the elections, and he
cited the relative success of the Jolo Governor Abdusakur Tan
in this effort.

¶7. (C) President Arroyo would easily win the congressional
seat she was seeking, Puno predicted. In the presidential
race, Puno supported the administration-backed candidacy of
Gilberto Teodoro, but he said that the other front-runners
(Senators Aquino and Villar) were also serious, credible
figures. The Ambassador stressed that the USG was entirely
neutral in the coming election but did care about the
process, and she encouraged Puno to exert whatever influence
he could to help ensure free, fair, and peaceful elections.

CABINET DYNAMICS
—————-

¶8. (C) Puno worried about the prospect of cabinet
resignations in the near future, as some cabinet members
would leave by March at the latest to engage in campaigning.
He was particularly worried about the loss of presidential
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Agriculture Secretary
Arthur Yap, and Presidential Management Staff Chief
Hermogenes Esperon. These were influential advisors of
President Arroyo who significantly helped to keep the
government functioning. Once they were to leave office,
their deputies would not be able to fill their shoes.

¶9. (C) Tangentially, Puno characterized Secretary of National
Defense Norberto Gonzales as a poor choice for his job. In
Puno’s view, Gonzales had inadequate experience to run a
large agency, was inconsistent, had a poor rapport with
leading members of the armed forces, and had “odd” political
views. Nevertheless, President Arroyo liked Gonzales, Puno
admitted.

COLLABORATION WITH THE USG
————————–

¶10. (C) Puno expressed great appreciation for the wide range
of support his Department had received from the USG,
specifically citing the efforts of the FBI and the Regional
Security Office, as well as U.S.-Philippine
intelligence-sharing. The Ambassador cited the recent arrest
of Abu Sayyaf Group figure Abdul Basir Latip as an example of
close U.S.-Philippine cooperation and also discussed U.S.
work with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the
aftermath of natural disasters, as well as U.S. assistance in
creating model police stations around the country.

¶11. (C) Puno acknowledged the Philippines could not have a
better partner than the United States. He expressed
satisfaction with efforts to date to modernize the PNP but
said more work remained to be done. He praised FBI technical
training but added the PNP would benefit from further
training in crime scene investigation, as well as in judicial
matters, police/prosecutor cooperation, and combating
trafficking in persons. He agreed with the Ambassador on the
necessity of ensuring that the PNP selected the proper
officials for training, and of promoting human rights.
KENNEY

   

 

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