Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/11/09MANILA2465.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2465
2009-11-25 09:19
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5905
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002465

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM KCRM KJUS ASEC RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR PRESSES GOVERNMENT ON MASSACRE INVESTIGATION

REF: MANILA 2448

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

SUMMARY
——–

¶1. (C) As the death toll in the brutal Maguindanao clan
massacre rose to at least 46 — including 13 journalists —
the Ambassador underscored to Philippine Interior Secretary
Ronaldo Puno grave USG concern over the barbaric attack and
urged a rapid, thorough and credible investigation, as well
as firm measures to avoid reprisals. Secretary Puno pledged
to carry out a complete and transparent probe, and stated his
prime goal was to ensure victims’ families obtained justice
through the judicial system, not through reprisals. He
confided that three police officers had been detained for
alleged involvement, and the province’s top police officer
had been relieved of command. Speculation abounds that the
politically powerful Ampatuan clan was responsible for the
massacre, amid widespread calls from human rights and
journalist groups for President Arroyo to ensure justice even
if the investigation implicates senior members of the
Ampatuan family, her close political allies. The Embassy
posted a public statement condemning the massacre; text is at
para 12. End Summary.

DEATH TOLL
———-

¶2. (C) By midday November 25, the confirmed death toll in the
Maguindanao massacre (reftel) rose to 46, including at least
13 journalists. Authorities were continuing to excavate
corpses from grave sites that were dug with a backhoe found
near the killings. Police sources told the Embassy that the
death toll could reach 60, and some press accounts claimed
that over 30 journalists had been in the convoy of
Mangudadatu family members and supporters who were murdered
as they went to file gubernatorial candidacy papers for a
leading Mangudadatu clan member. Many of the dead had
gunshot wounds to the head, and some of the men’s hands were
bound. Contrary to initial reports, RSO contacts (protect)
have told us none of the corpses were beheaded, and
investigators have found no signs of rape, as widely alleged
in the media.

AMBASSADOR URGES RAPID, CREDIBLE PROBE
————————————–

¶3. (C) In a November 25 call to Interior and Local Government
Secretary Ronaldo Puno, the country’s top law enforcement
official, the Ambassador stressed grave USG and international
concern at the brutal killings, which were a fundamental
violation of human rights. She urged a thorough, rapid, and
transparent investigation into the killings. Puno, who was
in the South to supervise the investigation, assured the
Ambassador he was sensitive to our concerns and agreed on the
need for a complete investigation; he said the government was
gathering significant information and would be able to
announce some progress soon. He confided that three
Maguindanao police officials were already in custody, and
that the province’s top police official had been relieved of
command.

¶4. (C) The Ambassador emphasized that quick, effective action
was essential in preventing further clan warfare. It was
critical that the government show it could deliver justice
through formal mechanisms. Puno, who sounded somber,
focused, and well aware of the international attention to
this case, agreed and said he would work with the police and
armed forces to ensure a secure environment in Maguindanao.
The Ambassador subsequently made the same points by phone
with Arroyo Cabinet Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

FOCUS ON THE AMPATUAN CLAN
————————–

¶5. (C) Speculation was widespread that the killings could not
have taken place without the assent if not participation of
the Ampatuan clan, whose primacy in Maguindanao the
Mangudadatus were challenging. Journalists and commentators
have focused on the close political ties between the
Ampatuans and President Arroyo, with many observers
expressing skepticism that the President will ensure justice
in a case that could implicate her close allies.

MANILA 00002465 002 OF 003

¶6. (C) Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief
Superintendent Leonardo Espina acknowledged publicly that
initial reports claimed Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr.,
had led the group that confronted the Mangudadatu convoy,
while Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman LTC
Romeo Brawner said that the suspects included “bodyguards of
Ampatuan, local police aides and certain lawless elements.”

¶7. (C) The PNP spokesman also said that assistant provincial
police director Chief Inspector Zukarno Dicay was “under
investigation and is under restriction.” Dicay was “seen at
the scene of the crime” along with some militia members,
according to Espina. RSO contacts (protect) have told us
that a total of three PNP officials were reportedly seen at
the scene of the crime. The three, as well as Maguindanao
provincial PNP chief Senior Superintendent Magit, whom
investigators view as bearing command responsibility for his
subordinates, have been relieved of duty in Cotabato City.
¶8. (C) Buluan Vice Mayor Ishmael Mangudadatu, whose wife and
other family members died in the massacre, claimed publicly
that there were four witnesses to the killings who were under
his protection. RSO contacts (protect) indicate the
authorities have not yet had access to these witnesses.

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
——————-

¶9. (SBU) President Arroyo on November 24 convened a special
cabinet meeting in response to the massacre and issued a
declaration of a state of emergency in Maguindanao, Sultan
Kudarat, and Cotabato City. In a public statement, Arroyo
denounced the killings as “a most heinous crime” and “a
supreme act of inhumanity that is a blight on our nation.”
“The perpetrators will not escape justice,” the President
said. “The law will haunt them until they are caught….
That these victims were brutally struck down while merely
exercising their right to political freedom must be condemned
by people everywhere.”

¶10. (SBU) The chief of the PNP, General Jesus Verzosa, has
gone to the South to supervise the investigation, and Arroyo
directed that acting AFP Chief of Staff LTG Rodrigo Maclang
oversee associated military action. To head up the Cabinet
team responding to the massacre, Arroyo named Jess Dureza,
her advisor on Mindanao affairs and former head of government
peace efforts. On November 24, Dureza met with Andal “Andy”
Ampatuan, the head of the Ampatuan clan, to request
cooperation in the investigation. In response, Commission on
Human Rights (CHR) Chairwoman Leila de Lima said that the
government should have summoned Ampatuan for questioning,
rather than sending a government official to call on him.
Ruling party Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential candidate Gilberto
Teodoro said that Ampatuan’s son “must be arrested because he
has something to do with this.”

COMMENT
——-

¶11. (C) The scale of this massacre raises a significant
likelihood of reprisals and escalation. While we are careful
not to prejudge the result of the investigation, we
understand the public focus on the Ampatuan clan. We doubt
the local media will soon ease its pressure for justice, but
even if President Arroyo is determined to push for a fair and
thorough investigation, it is unclear whether local actors
will cooperate with the national authorities; the killings
clearly illustrate the risks for those who oppose powerful
figures in Maguindanao. Dureza is a good choice to lead the
government’s response team; a journalist by training, he
hails from the southern city of Davao, and his experience
with the peace process will provide him with a deep
background and understanding of the clan and ethnic
sensitivities in play in Maguindanao. We believe Dureza’s
civilian status, palace office, and calm manner will help
keep tensions in check. End Comment.

EMBASSY STATEMENT
—————–

¶12. (U) Embassy Manila released the following statement
November 25:

BEGIN TEXT

The U.S. Embassy in Manila condemns the recent mass killings
in Maguindanao in the strongest possible terms. Ambassador

MANILA 00002465 003 OF 003

Kristie A. Kenney said: “Such barbaric acts violate the most
fundamental principles of human rights and democracy.” On
behalf of all American and Filipino employees of the Embassy,
Ambassador Kenney offers heartfelt condolences to the
families, friends and colleagues of the victims.

The Embassy urges the Philippine government to spare no
effort in investigating these terrible crimes and preventing
such violence in the months ahead. Ambassador Kenney
stressed: “We strongly believe that a thorough, rapid, and
transparent investigation must be conducted, and those
responsible must be brought to swift justice.”

END TEXT
KENNEY

   

 

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