Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2527.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2527
2009-12-10 09:12
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002527

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINS KJUS KDEM RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES MARTIAL LAW, MILF, MCC WITH EXECUTIVE SECRETARY ERMITA

REF: A. MANILA 2503 (AMB CAUTIONS ON MARTIAL LAW)
¶B. MANILA 2448 (PHILIPPINE CLAN VIOLENCE)

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

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) Presidential Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told
the Ambassador December 10 that he expected the congress
would not override President Arroyo on the imposition of
martial law in parts of Maguindanao province. He reassured
the Ambassador the government was respecting human rights
while martial law was in place. The Ambassador pressed to
determine when the government might rescind martial law;
Ermita indicated it would do so as soon as political optics
allowed, in advance of the 60-day limit. Ermita also said
Arroyo was personally involved in the peace process with the
MILF and was pleased with recent progress; he welcomed news
of the Philippines’ eligibility for the Millennium Challenge
Corporation compact. He expressed great enthusiasm over
Secretary Clinton’s recent visit and discussed his plans for
a congressional run, also indicating several officials on
whom Arroyo relies for counsel. End Summary.

MARTIAL LAW
———–

¶2. (C) In a one-on-one breakfast December 10, presidential
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told the Ambassador that
he expected the Philippine Congressional joint session
examining martial law in portions of Maguindanao province to
proceed for at least one more day. Ermita believed most of
the legislators were posturing for the public, but he
stressed that the administration was treating the legislative
process seriously and would make top officials available for
testimony during the joint session. (During the breakfast,
Ermita took calls from the Defense Secretary and the Foreign
Secretary, as they coordinated their approach to the hearings
scheduled for December 10.) Ermita said that the Congress
would realize that arrests and searches in connection with
the Maguindanao massacre could not have taken place without
the imposition of martial law, and congress would not
override the President’s decision. (Note: The administration
controls a commanding majority of the votes in the joint
session. End note.)

¶3. (C) The Ambassador pressed Ermita on when the government
would rescind martial law. Ermita said the government might
take this step soon, but officials would be wary about making
the President appear “capricious.” Conditions on the ground
could support a recision of martial law soon, Ermita said,
with the previously declared state of emergency remaining in
effect, but the timing of such a move should take into
account the political optics. Ermita assured the Ambassador
that the government was fully respecting human rights and
press freedoms and focusing on investigating the massacre and
prosecuting the culprits.

¶4. (C) Ermita said it had been common knowledge that the
Ampatuan clan, the key suspects in the killing of 57 people
in an election-related massacre last month, maintained its
own armed group in Maguindanao, but government officials were
astonished by the size of the arms caches, and the power of
the weaponry. Ermita repeated his earlier (ref A) expression
of confidence in General Raymundo Ferrer, who is overseeing
military operations in Maguindanao.

GOVERNMENT-MILF TALKS
———————

¶5. (C) Ermita characterized the most recent round of
government talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) as very successful. He said President Arroyo was
intensely focused on making progress in these talks and was
following them closely. At the conclusion of the talks on
December 9, the two parties announced that, among other
developments, they had agreed “to begin in earnest the
negotiations on a Comprehensive Compact.” It is unclear when
the talks will continue, however.

MCC

¶6. (C) The Ambassador remarked that the Milennium Challenge
Corporation had decided to reselect the Philippines for

MANILA 00002527 002 OF 002

Compact eligibility. Ermita, whom President Arroyo put in
charge of the Philippines’ MCC effort earlier this year,
warmly welcomed the news; he believed Philippine Ambassador
Gaa deserved much of the credit for the decision.

PALACE PERSONNEL
—————-

¶7. (C) Ermita said he would register with the Commission on
Elections in order to seek election to a House of
Representatives seat from the province of Batangas. Although
the formal registration period has ended, Ermita can register
now as a substitute for his daughter, who had registered her
candidacy for that seat but now has decided not to run.
Ermita said he expected he would remain in office until
March, at which point he would resign to campaign in the
election. A recent Supreme Court decision allows holders of
appointed government positions to remain in office beyond the
filing of their certificates of candidacy, but they must
resign when the formal campaign period begins.

¶8. (C) Tangentially, Ermita said that President Arroyo was
increasingly relying on three people for counsel: Secretary
of National Defense Norberto Gonzales, and advisors Remedios
Poblador and Lupita Aquino-Kashiwara. The Ambassador
expressed hope that senior officials with substantial
experience and sound judgment would also have good access to
the President.

SECRETARY CLINTON’S VISIT
————————-

¶9. (C) Ermita told the Ambassador he considered the visit of
Secretary Clinton a great success. He and other top
officials had been very impressed in their meetings with
Secretary Clinton, and he thought the Secretary had impressed
the nation with her public appearance in a televised
discussion at the University of Santo Thomas.

COMMENT
——-

¶10. (C) The government continues to take criticism for
imposing martial law, and this is overshadowing the worthy
steps to pursue accountability in the Maguindanao massacre.
We believe the government does, therefore, have an incentive
to lift martial law sooner rather than later. While we
understand civil society’s anxieties about martial law, we
have no indications that Ermita was less than truthful when
he said the government was respecting human rights in
Maguindanao.
KENNEY

   

 

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