Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/05/09MANILA986.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA986
2009-05-07 09:10
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 070910Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4051
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 000986

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/07/2019
TAGS: MOPS PGOV PINR PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH NEW CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES

REF: MANILA 834: NEW ARMED FORCES CHIEF NAMED

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador met with newly appointed
Philippine Chief of the Armed Forces Lieutenant General
Victor Ibrado May 7, affirming U.S. support for our strong
bilateral military relationship and congratulating him on his
selection as commander of the Armed Forces. Although Ibrado
had been named to the top position on April 15, his
predecessor, General Alexander Yano, was expected to remain
AFP Chief of Staff until his scheduled retirement on June 13.
In a surprise announcement April 27, Secretary of National
Defense Gilberto Teodoro said that Yano would retire earlier
than expected on May 1 and be appointed Philippine ambassador
to Brunei. During her meeting with Ibrado, Ambassador
emphasized U.S. commitment to ongoing counterterrorism
efforts against the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah in
the southern Philippines and to strengthening the Philippine
disaster relief capability. She also told Ibrado that the
USG stood ready to provide assistance to advance the peace
process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Ibrado
thanked the Ambassador for USG contributions across a wide
range of activities, including humanitarian assistance,
counterterrorism, and military readiness training and
expressed his optimism that the U.S.-Philippine military
partnership will continue to grow in the future. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) Ambassador called on new Chief of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) Lieutenant General Victor Ibrado and
members of his staff May 7. Although Ibrado had been named
to the top position on April 15 (reftel), his predecessor,
General Alexander Yano, was expected to remain AFP Chief of
Staff until his scheduled retirement on June 13. However, on
April 27, Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro said
Yano had been appointed as Philippine ambassador to Brunei
and would retire May 1, allowing Ibrado to assume the post
approximately six weeks earlier than had been anticipated.
Ibrado previously served as Commander of the Philippine Army
and is a highly-respected veteran soldier. His selection as
AFP Chief of Staff lends credibility to previous statements
by senior government officials that promotion to the upper
echelons of the Philippine military will continue to be based
on professional criteria rather than politics. In a recent
discussion with the Ambassador, Teodoro lauded Ibrado and
said he would keep the military on track toward greater
professionalization.

CHANGING PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS
—————————

¶3. (C) The meeting with Ibrado came at the conclusion of
this year’s annual Balikatan joint military exercise and the
first-ever ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) field exercise, a
disaster relief demonstration held north of Manila that
included 26 of the 27 ARF nations — only the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea did not participate — and over
300 participants and observers. The Ambassador lauded the
Philippine government’s sustained efforts to make both events
a success. In the case of Balikatan, the Ambassador
commented that effective outreach by the AFP and U.S.
personnel had buried early leftist propaganda under a wave of
positive reactions from public figures and the media, but
suggested that a more forward leaning public affairs posture
for future exercises might counter the ability of leftist
activists to get traction in their criticism of the U.S.
military. Ibrado agreed and commented that it was heartening
to see the rhetoric in the areas of the humanitarian
activities shift from “we don’t want you here” to “please
don’t go.”

KEEPING UP PRESSURE ON EXTREMISTS
———————————

¶4. (C) During their meeting, the Ambassador reiterated the
USG’s strong support for the Philippine government’s fight
against terrorist elements in Mindanao and the Sulu
Archipelago in the southern Philippines. General Ibrado
thanked the Ambassador for training and assistance provided
by the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines and
said that U.S. troops’ daily involvement with their
Philippine counterparts paid great dividends in terms of
enhancing the AFP’s professionalism and tactical
capabilities. The Ambassador emphasized that pressure must
be maintained on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaah
Islamiyah (JI) terrorist groups and that U.S. personnel would
continue their efforts to identify training and equipment
that would prove most beneficial to the Philippine forces in
their counterterrorism operations. Ibrado said that ASG and
JI elements were increasingly located in areas of difficult
terrain making pursuit a challenge, but that he had
instructed his division commanders to intensify operations
against them so they would not be able to find sanctuary
anywhere, a strategy that would hopefully lead to their
capture or death.

REDUCING TERRORISTS’ OPERATING SPACE
————————————

¶5. (C) General Ibrado highlighted humanitarian assistance
and disaster relief as two of the areas in which U.S.
military assistance had played an extremely valuable role.
Ibrado cited the 2008 visit of the USNS Mercy to Samar as a
complementary capstone to his efforts to use civil-military
projects in the area to reduce the influence of the terrorist
New People’s Army when he was commander of the Philippine
Central Command in Cebu in 2007. He also noted that USG
assistance rendered in the aftermath of Typhoon Frank in June
2008 had been invaluable. Ibrado stressed the need for a
broader emphasis on “soft power” to reduce the operating
space for terrorists and bolster support for the government
in economically depressed areas of the country. The
Ambassador concurred and said that the United States would
continue to make civil-military operations a key component of
our assistance and that the USG stood ready to assist the
Philippines when future calamities occurred.

¶6. (C) On broader military-military engagement, General
Ibrado said the AFP was studying the resource requirements of
placing a liaison officer with the U.S. Fifth Fleet to work
on the Somali piracy issue. The Ambassador commended Ibrado
on the Philippine’s robust presence in United Nations
peacekeeping deployments and said that the Mission would be
working closely with the AFP this year on improving its
peacekeeping capabilities through the Global Peace Operations
Initiative, which the Philippines joined in 2008. The
Ambassador also noted that the USG had requested funds for
the Coast Watch South initiative to augment maritime security
in the southern Philippines. She also told Ibrado that the
USG stood ready to provide whatever assistance it could to
advance the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front. General Ibrado thanked the Ambassador for U.S.
assistance in these key areas.

COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) The reasons for General Yano’s premature retirement
and General Ibrado’s assumption of the top post earlier than
anticipated are unclear. Some senior AFP officers have
speculated that Yano was ready to step down, rather than be
perceived as a lame duck for another month. However, Yano
told the Ambassador he was deeply surprised — and dismayed
— when his departure was advanced twice without his
knowledge. Other contacts have conjectured that President
Arroyo, whose term expires in May 2010, intends to replace
Ibrado with a more loyal retainer before Ibrado’s one-year
tour as AFP Chief of Staff is finished. Nevertheless, the
Mission views General Ibrado as well qualified for his new
position. He is keen to expand the Philippine Armed Forces’
contact with other militaries, particularly the U.S., through
educational exchanges and other programs. With senior
command experience in regions of intense leftist activity,
Ibrado brings a sophisticated understanding of the
effectiveness of “soft power” to the top spot in the
Philippine military. At the same time, he will not shrink
from ordering his subordinates to use all force necessary to
bring terrorists to justice, a quality which should extend
the Philippine government’s record of success against
extremists.
KENNEY

   

 

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