Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/01/10MANILA135.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10MANILA135
2010-01-22 08:51
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 000135

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2020
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR’S FAREWELL MEETING WITH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AQUINO

REF: A. MANILA 00060 (AMBASSADOR’S FAREWELL WITH
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GILBERTO TEODORO)
¶B. MANILA 02290 (SENATOR VILLAR GOES ON THE
OFFENSIVE IN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: The Ambassador hosted a cordial,
hour-long coffee at the Residence January 21 with Liberal
Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino
III and his vice presidential running mate, Senator Manuel A.
“Mar” Roxas. Clearly more relaxed and self-possessed than in
previous encounters, Senator Aquino appeared to have emerged
from the shadow of the towering political legacy of his
parents, former President Corazon Aquino and political martyr
Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. Still, “Senator Noynoy” seemed
more at ease trading quips with his running mate or
reminiscing about his parents than in describing his policy
views, which he delineated more in negative terms )-
overcoming the corruption and cronyism of the Arroyo
administration ) than in a positive vision of where he
wanted to take the Philippines. Asked to describe his
campaign strategy, he dwelled on the need to keep political
opponents from stealing the election (and speculating whether
his supporters should take to the streets if results were
manipulated) rather than laying out a strategy for building
on his current leading position in the polls. The Ambassador
stressed the importance of a free and fair election to the
international credibility of the Philippines and outlined
important bilateral issues, including additional humanitarian
relief, joint military exercises and an increase in Peace
Corps volunteers. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

¶2. (C) Previous contacts with Senator Aquino, often
accompanying his mother, former President Cory Aquino, left
the impression of a diffident, unassertive man continuing a
political tradition handed on by his parents but not carving
out his own legacy. The outpouring of national affection and
grief last summer over the death of his mother thrust him
into the political limelight, however, and after several
weeks of apparent uncertainty whether he should take up his
parents’ mantle, he emerged from a personal retreat
apparently determined to accept the call of his millions of
new supporters and seek the presidency.

NEW-FOUND CONFIDENCE
——————–

¶3. (C) That more confident, self-assured persona was very
much on display at the Residence during a relaxed, hour-long
coffee with the Ambassador. Not only was Senator Aquino
completely at ease with his running mate, Senator Roxas, a
longtime Senate colleague, but remained the dominant
interlocutor throughout the discussion, despite Senator
Roxas’ more ebullient personality. Senator Aquino joked
several times about his very assertive sister, TV personality
Kris Aquino, noting how she had chosen his new glasses for
him, and remarked wryly about working with several of his
more controversial Senate colleagues, one of whom led a coup
attempt in 1987 that left Senator Aquino severely wounded.

CLEAN ELECTIONS VITAL FOR INTERNATIONAL CREDIBILITY
——————————————— ——

¶4. (C) The Ambassador lauded Senator Aquino’s courageous
demeanor throughout the demanding days of his mother’s wake,
funeral mass and hours-long funeral procession last summer,
and in particular his political maturity in gracefully
receiving both President Arroyo and the children of former
dictator Ferdinand Marcos, bitter political foes of the
Aquino family. Such magnanimity was rare in Philippine
politics, but was needed if the country’s political wounds
were ever to heal, the Ambassador noted. Equally important,
it was vital that the upcoming election be free, fair and
transparent; a failed or disputed election would seriously
damage the Philippines, international reputation.

RUNNING AGAINST ARROYO
———————-

¶5. (C) Senator Aquino agreed that such reconciliation was
necessary, though he quipped that he asked his sisters if any
of them would like to meet the President or Marcos children
in his stead. And in spite of the momentary time-out from
politics during the funeral, Senator Aquino made it clear
that he was fully prepared to carry out a tough campaign for

MANILA 00000135 002 OF 002

the presidency, with the shortcomings of the current
administration as his key platform.

¶6. (C) Senator Aquino explained that he had just come from
addressing an overflow crowd at the Makati Business Club, a
key business group staunchly opposed to President Arroyo.
Aquino joked that he wanted to tell the crowd, “Just send
checks and check my website for my speech,” but he recognized
the importance of reaching out personally to business and
political groups throughout the country. In that vein, he
would be heading to Cebu January 22 to address that city’s
main business club.

SHORT ON POLICY PLANKS
———————-

¶7. (C) Unlike other major presidential candidates whom the
Ambassador has met recently, like Senator Manuel “Manny”
Villar and former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro
(reftels), Senator Aquino was vague on specific policies he
would pursue if he won office. Queried for his views on
issues like Mindanao, the economy and foreign policy, Senator
Aquino did not provide any clear policy proposals, but
stressed the importance of clearing up the legacy of
corruption and cronyism of the Arroyo administration. The
only policy concern he mentioned specifically was the dismal
state of Philippine education, as he noted a recent UN report
that said the Philippines lagged behind Zambia and Tanzania
in universal education. However, he did not outline any
plans to reverse the decline.

CONTINGENCY PLANNING FOR VOTE RIGGING
————————————-

¶8. (C) Similarly, when questioned about his campaign strategy
for maintaining and building on his current front-runner
status in all presidential polls, Senator Aquino focused on
the need to prevent efforts by opposing political forces to
manipulate election results rather than on how he would use
media or personal appearances to reach out to the millions of
lower-class voters who would be the decisive voices in the
election. He suggested that he would deploy many of his
30,000 election volunteers around the country to oversee the
voting. Somewhat more disturbingly, he said he was already
giving thought to how his party would need to react to vote
rigging if he did not win the election, wondering aloud if it
would be necessary to take to the streets to reverse a
perceived fraudulent election.

OLD WOUNDS
———-

¶9. (C) Where Senator Aquino was most comfortable was in
talking about the past )- parents and family, the 1987 coup
attempt, the bloody Huk rebellion. Speaking wistfully about
his parents, he voiced regret that his mother had not
recorded a narrative for visitors to the Aquino family
library in Tarlac. For his father, Aquino recalled that
Ninoy Aquino walked at a rapid clip, so that others had to
jog to keep up. Turning to the coup attempt, he said that
when he and his 5 security escorts were attacked by 95
rebellious soldiers, he had suffered serious wounds to his
left arm and neck, and a bullet was still lodged near his
carotid artery; all but one of his escorts was killed. He
then kept his wounds secret from his mother for four hours,
so she could concentrate on countering the coup. Ironically,
one of the key plotters, Gregorio Honasan, was now a
colleague in the Senate.

CONTINUING U.S. POLICY PROGRAMS
——————————-

¶10. (C) The Ambassador briefed the two Senators on her
impending departure from post, saying that her designated
successor was awaiting confirmation from the Senate, and that
they should feel free to reach out to the Charge d’Affaires
if they had any questions or concerns. She also briefed them
on some key upcoming bilateral events, including humanitarian
relief carried out by the Air Force hospital plane Pacific
Angel, the annual Balikatan military exercises, progress
toward a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact and a
planned doubling of Peace Corps volunteers in the
Philippines.
KENNEY

   

 

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