Oct 232014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA2777 2005-06-17 06:05 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002777



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2015


¶B. MANILA 2731
¶C. MANILA 2730
¶D. MANILA 2689

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: The Philippine Congress is planning
inquiries into an audiotape that the opposition says
implicates President Arroyo in electoral fraud. Arroyo —
defending herself — has condemned “irresponsible detractors”
and her press secretary has announced that she has no plans
to appear before committee hearings. The GRP has begun the
process of filing charges against the former official who
claimed last week that he was the source of the tapes. In
another potential blow to Arroyo, her trusted Secretary of
Agriculture, Arthur Yap, has been charged with tax evasion.
Arroyo is under considerable pressure to explain the tapes,
including from supporters who fear that she will lose
credibility as questions about her role linger. End Summary.

Congress Plans Inquiries into Tapes

¶2. (C) The Philippine Congress is planning inquiries into an
audiotape that the opposition says implicates President
Arroyo in electoral fraud (ref B). Although on recess until
July 25, House leaders decided to initiate a joint committee
investigation into the making of the audiotape, its contents,
and the circumstances of its release during a June 15
Executive Committee session. Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno, a
congressman with close Malacanang links, told Acting Polcouns
June 15 that “the general idea of the hearings will be to
determine whether there are any grounds for impeachment.”
Puno quickly added that he did not think the President had
done anything illegal. The joint committee will be presided
over by Representative Gilbert Remulla, who is generally
considered an Arroyo ally. Although the list of witnesses is
not yet complete, there are reports that Malacanang Press
Secretary Ignacio Bunye and National Bureau of Investigation

(NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco will be invited to attend the
first hearing on June 21. There are also reports that the
joint committee plans to invite the President (see below),
First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, and former
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Virgilio
Garcillano to subsequent hearings.

¶3. (C) Garcillano could be a key witness. He is apparently
the person President Arroyo is speaking with in the
audiotape, though he has denied his involvement in the
matter. For the past several days, he has been out of touch,
staying at his residence in Bukidnon, Mindanao, according to
sources. Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson told Acting Polcouns
on June 16 that he thought that Garcillano would be reluctant
to appear before the joint committee on a voluntary basis and
that a subpoena might have to be issued to ensure his
participation. Garcillano’s long and controversial history
as COMELEC Director in Mindanao has been the subject of
intense scrutiny, and many observers have speculated that his
testimony could be crucial in the building of a case for or
against the President. In light of this, contacts have noted
that President Arroyo has a key decision to make on whether
to re-appoint Garcillano a COMELEC commissioner since his
commission just ended and is up for renewal.

¶4. (C) Calls for action in the Senate came from both
opposition and pro-administration senators. Minority leader
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel — who has already called for Arroyo
to resign — asked for an immediate investigation by the
National Defense and Security Committee, but Chairman Sen.
Rodolfo Biazon has been reluctant to advance the proposal,
fearing a “witch-hunt.” Pro-Administration Senator Miriam
Defensor-Santiago has asked Arroyo to call a special session
of Congress, and influential senators, Franklin Drilon (the
Senate President) and Manuel “Mar” Roxas, have publicly
indicated their basic agreement on the need for a Senate
inquiry. In his meeting with Acting Polcouns, Lacson said he
believed there would be a Senate hearing “sooner rather than
later,” although he felt that pro-Administration senators —
who are in the majority — might act “to protect” the
president and “not let the whole truth come out.” (Note:
The House and Senate are also looking into accusations that
members of the First Family, though not the President
herself, were involved in profit-taking from illegal
gambling. Further hearings are planned and various GRP
agencies are investigating the charges.)

Presidential Reaction

¶5. (C) Stepping into the fray, Arroyo condemned what she
called “irresponsible detractors” in a June 16 speech.
Arroyo also railed against what she called “destabilizers,”
attacking them for going “too far this time.” She insisted
that her administration was making progress in moving its
reform platform forward and that the economy was making
gains. Arroyo said she would continue to focus on her agenda
despite the criticism she is under. Also, on June 16,
Malacanang Press Secretary Bunye announced that the President
had no intention of appearing before any Congressional
hearings. Bunye also indicated that the President had no
plans to address the tape issue in a specific manner,
asserting that there was no reason for her to do so as no one
had shown that she was involved in any improprieties. Puno
told Acting Polcouns, however, that the President was
considering making a speech on national TV in the near future
meant to rebut charges that she was involved in electoral

Charges Filed Against Former Official

¶6. (SBU) The GRP has begun the process of filing charges
against the former official who claimed last week on live TV
that he was the source of the tapes. On June 13, The NBI
recommended that the Department of Justice (DOJ) file charges
against former NBI deputy director Samuel Ong, asserting that
Ong’s intention was “to incite” citizens to rise up against
the President and force her to resign. Ong remains at large
at this time — the DOJ panel investigating the case has yet
to file formal charges and issue an arrest warrant.

Agriculture Secretary Charged

¶7. (SBU) In another potential blow to Arroyo, her trusted
Secretary of Agriculture, Arthur Yap, has been charged with

tax evasion. The Ombudsman’s Office has confirmed press
reports that Yap, 39, — who is close to Mike Arroyo and was
once a top student of the President’s when she taught at the
Ateneo de Manila University — and his father were charged
this week with non-payment of USD 72,000 in taxes in 1997-98.
The taxes were generated from a real estate transaction that
Yap and his father were involved in during the 1990s.
Secretary Cesar Purisima of the Department of Finance, which

oversees the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the body that
filed the charges, publicly stated: “There are no sacred cows
in our campaign against tax evasion.” For his part,
Secretary Yap — who does not have a “Mr. Clean” reputation

— has heatedly denied the charges, while Malacanang has said
it will not interfere in the matter and supports a full


¶8. (C) Arroyo is under considerable pressure to explain the
tapes, which are quickly becoming the stuff of popular legend
in the Philippines. Despite GRP warnings that the tapes and
their reproduction are illegal, audio versions are now widely
circulating on the internet and freely sold on street
corners. Snippets of the tapes featuring what certainly
seems to be the President’s voice have even been re-mixed
with music to make what is becoming a very popular ring tone
for cell phones. Providing an opposition perspective, Sen.
Lacson says the President has a conundrum in discussing the
tapes: “If she admits it’s her voice, then she has to resign
(because she is discussing electoral fraud). If she denies
it, she’s lying.” Supporters of the President believe that
the opposition is exaggerating the situation, and that the
President simply needs to explain whether or not it is her
voice and, if so, what she is saying. Supporters add,
however, — and most observers would agree — that she has to
take steps to address the matter one way or the other because
her credibility is at stake.

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