Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/03/08MANILA666.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA666
2008-03-14 09:17
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO4782
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0666/01 0740917
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 140917Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0149
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000666

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KCOR PINR RP
SUBJECT: ANTI-ARROYO FERVOR FIZZLES

REF: A. MANILA 521 (PROTESTS LACK CRITICAL MASS)

¶B. MANILA 517 (MANILA BRACES FOR ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION)
¶C. MANILA 483 (BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS ROIL ADMINISTRATION)
¶D. MANILA 316 (HOUSE SPEAKER OUSTED)

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: As corruption allegations against the Arroyo
Administration persist, the general public appears increasingly
uninspired about prospects for removing President Arroyo from office
before 2010. The February 25 and 29 anti-Arroyo rallies in the
streets of Metro Manila failed to attract crowds or fervor in any
way comparable to the events that brought down former Presidents
Marcos or Estrada (ref A and B). As this mostly Catholic country
prepares for Easter and as students leave university campuses for
summer recess, the opportunity for mass demonstrations against
Arroyo diminishes accordingly. Organizers of a March 14 “rally for
truth” in Manila openly admitted that they did not expect large
crowds – another sign of “people power” fatigue. The House and
Senate recessed on March 12 for the Easter holidays, further
mitigating political noise against the administration. President
Arroyo appears poised to serve out her term until 2010. END
SUMMARY.

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS UNAVAILABLE FOR PROTESTS
——————————————–

¶2. (U) During the March 11 ceremony for the signing of the national
budget, President Arroyo noted that “people are tired of the
politics of division and despair” — a warning to the opposition to
recognize that she fully intends to stay in power until 2010. While
the opposition continued to plan anti-Arroyo demonstrations,
including a “rally for truth” in Manila on March 14, its ability to
attract demonstrators has been severely hampered by factors outside
their control, including the Easter holidays, when many Metro Manila
residents return to their home provinces. University students in
Metro Manila, who have turned out in large numbers for the recent
rallies, are now preparing for final examinations and summer
holidays. Manila’s largest universities, including University of
the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle University, and
University of Santo Tomas, will recess for over two months beginning
in the middle of March.

CONGRESS BREAKS FROM ITS INVESTIGATIONS
—————————————

¶3. (SBU) Both houses of Congress adjourned on March 12 and will not
resume sessions until April 21. While congressional committees are
allowed to hold hearings during recess, the Senate committees
investigating the ZTE national broadband network controversy (ref C)
have not decided when formal inquiries will resume. While the calls
for Arroyo’s resignation may continue for months to come, opposition
leaders will probably not garner any support or momentum until
October, at the earliest, when the House can file another
impeachment complaint against the President. The Constitution
prohibits the filing of more than one impeachment complaint against
the same official within a one-year period; President Arroyo has
survived three impeachment attempts so far, the most recent in
October 2007.

OUTSIDE MANILA, ARROYO REMAINS STRONG
————————————-

¶4. (SBU) While political and business elites in Metro Manila remain
enthralled with the latest turn of events in the corruption
scandals, local and regional leaders throughout the country have
expressed — in separate visits to Malacanang Presidential Palace
and in manifestos published in national newspapers — their
continued support for President Arroyo to serve out her term until
¶2010. The Union of Local Authorities, the League of Provinces, the
League of Cities, the League of Municipalities, the Vice Governors
League, the Philippine Councilors League, and the Provincial Board
Members League have all lauded the President’s strong economic
leadership and rejected what some regional leaders have called “the
tyranny of imperial Manila.”

THE CHURCH: RESTRAINED BUT INFLUENTIAL
————————————–

¶5. (SBU) While some critics have argued that the Catholic Church’s
political relevance has waned in recent years, the Catholic Bishops
Conference of the Philippines continues to demonstrate its
influential force in the inner circles of government. While
unwilling to call for Arroyo’s resignation amidst the recent
scandals, the Catholic Bishops were able to quietly convince
President Arroyo to revoke a controversial executive order that
prohibited executive branch officials from testifying in Congress
without prior approval from the President. The order’s revocation
paves the way for government officials to appear before the Senate
and testify about the ZTE scandal.

MANILA 00000666 002 OF 002

SECURITY FORCES REMAIN LOYAL
—————————-

¶6. (SBU) During a March 13 breakfast with the Ambassador, Philippine
Chief of the Armed Forces General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., said that
he was “proud” of the conduct of the military and police during the
recent protests. Esperon noted that the security forces had turned
a critical corner in their ability to handle large demonstrations
without incident. Although the police were under tremendous
pressure during the recent demonstrations, Esperon emphasized that
the demonstrations remained peaceful, and the police and military
upheld their responsibility to ensure public order. Despite media
rumors that the military could act extra-constitutionally to oust
the President, Esperon said responsible decisionmakers knew better,
citing prominent members of the business community who had called to
offer their support during the rallies and to compliment the
exemplary behavior of the police and military.

COMMENT
——-

¶7. (SBU) As churchgoers prepare for Easter, students leave
university campuses for summer recess, and Congress takes a
five-week break, the opportunity for mass demonstrations against
Arroyo will likely dissipate for the near future. The general
public outside of Metro Manila appears largely nonplussed by the
latest corruption allegations or the continued calls for the
President’s resignation. While the scandals may dominate headlines
of Metro Manila’s newspapers for weeks to come, the upcoming March
15 match of national boxing hero Manny Pacquaio will be everyone’s
dinner-table conversation, not the fate of Arroyo. The President
appears to have staved off yet another round of attacks by her
detractors and critics, and seems poised to serve out her term until
¶2010.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website: http://www.state.sgov.gov

KENNEY

   

 

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