Oct 242014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-11-06 09:25
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 005166




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2015

¶B. MANILA 5023
¶C. TDX-315/63725-05
¶D. MANILA 5098

Classified By: (U) Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Paul Jones
for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

¶1. (C/NF) SUMMARY. The Philippines’ once again turbulent
political environment has sparked new waves of rumors that
the President or her advisers are considering emergency rule
or martial law, and that elements within the military are
seeking to stage a coup. We assess that neither scenario yet
seems probable here, but we continue to monitor the situation
closely and to stress in public and private statements the
need for the rule of law, our opposition to any and all
extreme measures — by the government or opposition — and
the negative impact any such action will have on US
assistance. We also seek at every opportunity to focus the
GRP on our substantive agenda, which is considerable and
productive in many areas. END SUMMARY.


¶2. (S/NF) Senior GRP officials presented an aide memoire
that reflects the views of at least some key Arroyo advisors
to Secretary Rice and Director for National Intelligence
Negroponte, and attached it to a letter on Iraq to President
Bush. It claimed that “political opportunists and
destabilizers have forged understandings with Communists,
terrorists and Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists to remove the
President” and urged “vocal support for our President” from
the USG to help with this “increasingly serious and dangerous
situation.” Intel reporting (ref C) has also indicated that
senior advisors are considering — and perhaps have begun
drafting — possible measures to implement emergency rule of
some sort in the Philippines. In a one-in-one discussion
with President Arroyo on November 7 on the margins of USAID
Assistant Administrator Kunder’s call (septel), CDA noted
that we did not share the analysis in the aide memoire or
believe circumstances would justify extreme measures.
President Arroyo appeared somewhat nonplused, but responded
only that she was “so sorry to hear” this.

¶3. (SBU) The 1987 Constitution clearly provides that “in
times of war or other national emergency,” Congress may
authorize the President for a “limited period” to “exercise
powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national
policy” until the next adjournment of Congress. A separate
clause gives the President, as Commander-in-Chief, power to
suspend habeas corpus or “place the Philippines or any part
thereof under martial law” in cases of invasion or rebellion,
even without Congressional approval — although Congress has
the right within 48 hours to revoke such a proclamation by
majority vote.

¶4. (S/NF) We have made clear in our meetings with
senior-level GRP officials, also including during CDA’s
October 21 meeting with President Arroyo (ref A) and a
separate meeting with Foreign Secretary Romulo on November 3,
our firm opposition to emergency rule or martial law.
Additionally, in a speech to Manila Rotary Clubs on November
3, CDA described USG support to democratic institutions,
concluding that the USG would reject emergency rule or
extra-Constitutional measures. We will continue in public
and private statements to insist on the need for the rule of
law, emphatically stress our opposition to any and all
extreme measures, and underscore that such actions would have
serious, negative impacts on US assistance, international
investor confidence, and the Philippines’ international

¶5. (S/NF) We do not believe that GMA has reached a decision
to move to this next phase. One factor that bodes well is
GMA’s view of herself as a long-time democratic activist and
a worthy successor to her respected father, former President
Diosdado Macapagal. We are nonetheless concerned that her
advisers may be increasingly successful in convincing her
that so-called plots by the opposition are now combined with
long-standing opposition to the GRP by leftist groups,
notably the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s
Army (CPP/NPA), in order to ensure her downfall. She may be
increasingly inclined to react to boisterous public
demonstrations as “evidence” of incipient “rebellion” and
hence seek to impose at least limited emergency measures.
EAP DAS John’s upcoming visit will provide yet another
opportunity to disabuse the GRP of any belief that the USG
would view such a step by the GRP benignly. Some GRP
officials may misread the relaxed USG response to the limited
imposition of emergency rule following the Oakwood Mutiny on
July 27, 2003 as an indication of our likely reaction to
emergency rule today. In the current political environment,
any emergency rule could only be justified by a blatant
attempt to overthrow the government, which we do not see as

——————————————— ——–

¶6. (C/NF) AFP Chief of Staff General Generoso Senga has
publicly called for the military to remain apolitical, as has
Secretary of National Defense Avelino Cruz, who used a recent

address at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to urge the
AFP to “remain insulated from partisan politics.” If the
past is any guide, any coup attempt would likely have to
involve a number of elite units and be directed against a
series of specific targets: Malacanang Palace; Philippine
National Police Headquarters at Camp Crame; AFP Headquarters
and the Department of National Defense at Camp Aguinaldo;
Fort Bonafacio; radio and television stations; and the Manila
International Airport. The Scout Rangers, Philippine
Marines, Navy Special Warfare Group, Special Forces, and
Light Reaction Companies (LRCs) are potential sources of coup
recruits. The failed Oakwood Mutiny included elements from
each of these units.

¶7. (C/NF) The Philippine Marines have only one infantry
battalion and a handful of light armored vehicles and
artillery pieces at their Fort Bonafacio headquarters; their
remaining 10 infantry battalions are deployed to Mindanao, as
are two of the three LRCs. Scout Ranger, SWAG, and Special
Force units were consolidated into smaller components
following the Oakwood mutiny; much of their combat power, as
well, is deployed to Mindanao. The only combat aircraft that
could be used to support a coup are based at Sangley Point
Air Station in Cavite, and consist of OV-10s and MG-520
helicopter gunships. The Presidential Security Group (PSG)
and the 300-man Philippine National Police Special Action
Force (SAF) have traditionally served as anti-coup forces and
are expected to remain loyal.

¶8. (C/NF) It is highly likely that any coup attempt would
split the military, something that AFP leaders fear, pointing
to the failed effort in 1989 that pitted brother against
brother and PMA classmate against PMA classmate. In the
Marines, this led to the motto, “Never Again.” This legacy
weighs heavily on the minds of field grade and senior
officers. For a coup to succeed, it would need widespread
support among the entire military.

¶9. (C/NF) The AFP chain of command remains fully functional.
General Senga, while not as popular as his predecessor,
General Abu, retains the respect of his subordinates.
Philippine Army commander Lieutenant General Hermogenes
Esperon is a GMA loyalist, as is the commander of the
National Capital Region Command, Lieutenant General Alan
Cabalquinto. Similar to 1989, if a serious coup were
attempted, fighting would probably devolve into a series of
small unit actions centered around Malacanang, Camp
Crame/Camp Aguinaldo, and Fort Bonafacio, and involve
significant destruction. Even a failed coup attempt could
undermine peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF), fuel the Communist insurgency, set back defense
reform, and take badly needed attention away from the
counterterrorism fight.


¶10. (C) GRP and AFP officials care very much about the
judgments of the USG and will watch and listen closely to our
actions and words as they deliberate possible next steps.
Both Embassy officials and USG visitors from Washington and
PACOM can helpfully continue to disabuse any on the ground
here who might mistakenly believe that we would condone or
support any efforts to undermine democratic rule, whether
technically permissible under the Constitution or blatantly
unconstitutional. We will continue to monitor the situation,
and will request Washington’s assistance in pressing the
message as needed.

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



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