Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/08/05MANILA3862.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3862 2005-08-21 09:27 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 02 MANILA 003862

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/PMBS, EAP/PD, INR/EAP, INR/B
NSC FOR GREEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/10/2015
TAGS: PGOV PINS PINR SOCI KCOR RP
SUBJECT: CABINET SECRETARY IN DISCUSSIONS WITH ESTRADA CAMP; OPPOSITION CONFIDENT ABOUT IMPEACHMENT NUMBERS?

REF: A. MANILA 3697

¶B. MANILA 3593
¶C. MANILA 3458
¶D. MANILA 3391

Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Joseph L. Novak
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Michael Defensor, Secretary of Environment
and Natural Resources, has confirmed that he has been engaged
in talks with supporters of former president Estrada. The
exact scope of the talks is unclear, but Defensor, claiming
that he is acting on his own volition, says the talks support
“national reconciliation.” The Estrada camp continues to
underscore that it will not cooperate unless Estrada is
released from house arrest. This last condition would be
politically hazardous for Arroyo to even think about and
there is no indication that she is about to agree to it. In
other news, a close contact has told us that the Opposition
may be edging closer to the number of endorsements needed for
a referral of its impeachment complaint to the Senate.
Hearings into the impeachment charges continue on August 23.
End Summary.

————–
Rapprochement?
————–

¶2. (U) In August 19 remarks to the press, Secretary Defensor
confirmed that he has been engaged in talks with supporters
of former president Joseph Estrada. The exact scope of the
talks is unclear, but Defensor — claiming that he is acting
on his own volition — said the talks support “national
reconciliation.” The Estrada camp continues to underscore
that it will not cooperate unless Estrada is released from
house arrest. (Note: Estrada has been in jail and
subsequently under house arrest since 2001. He is being
tried on charges of plunder and corruption. End Note.)

¶3. (U) President Arroyo reiterated the theme of “national
reconciliation” in brief remarks made in front of a large
crowd gathered in Manila on August 20 in honor of Brother
Mike Velarde, the founder of El Shaddai, a large Catholic
group. After Velarde said he was willing “to mediate”
between Arroyo and Estrada in remarks to the crowd, Arroyo
went on to state: “As Brother Mike said, let’s look for a
formula that works and is acceptable so that we would all be
united as soon as possible. As President of the Philippines,
I am ready to take steps and I call on my enemies for us to
unite so that our politics would not deteriorate and so that
our economy would progress.” Arroyo did not make any remarks
specific to Estrada. She had left the stage by the time that
Estrada arrived to greet Velarde. (Note: The
“Sandiganbayan” Anti-Graft Court had granted Estrada
permission to leave house arrest for 12 hours so that he
could undergo a medical examination in Manila and attend part
of the Velarde event. He was under police escort at all
times. End Note.)

¶4. (C) When asked about Defensor’s efforts, Malacanang has
made clear that it is willing to reach out to opponents as
long as “justice is not sacrificed.” This appears to be a
signal that Malacanang is unwilling to countenance any effort
to try to release Estrada from house arrest perhaps by trying
to get him bail. In an August 22 meeting with poloff, Ramon
“Eki” Cardenas, an Estrada adviser, confirmed that talks were
taking place between the two camps. He added that he did not
think they would come to fruition because he did not believe
that Malacanang would allow Estrada to get out from under
house arrest. (Note: There is considerable debate as to
whether Malacanang could secure Estrada’s release even if it
wanted to: plunder — the most serious of the charges he
faces — is a capital and thus non-bailable offense.
Estrada, nonetheless, has filed a request for bail. Defensor
has since walked back comments he earlier made to the effect
that perhaps Estrada could be released into someone else’s
recognizance, which he said might be a legal solution. End
Note.)

—————————-
Optimism in Opposition Camp?
—————————-

¶5. (C) In other news, Ronnie Zamorra, an Opposition
congressman closely involved in impeachment issues, told
Acting Pol/C on August 19 that the Opposition was edging
closer to the number of endorsements needed for a referral of
its impeachment complaint to the Senate. Zamorra asserted
that the Opposition now has 74 of the 79 endorsements needed
(one-third of the total House membership of 236). Zamorra
predicted that the Opposition could reach the 79 figure in
the next week or two “despite Malacanang’s best efforts to
fight us.” When Acting Pol/C noted that the last Opposition
announcement on the matter placed the total at about 52 (ref
b), he remarked that that was the case two weeks ago, but
that the opposition continues to gather signatures, including
from House representatives in the President’s coalition.
Zamorra said he had no plans to announce the latest total
until there were 79 or more signatures, asserting that if he
published the names “Malacanang will only try to bribe them
to retract.” (Note: A local newspaper reported on August 20
that the Opposition had 67 signatures. End Note.)

¶6. (U) Zamorra confirmed that hearings into the impeachment
charges would recommence on August 23. The Opposition hoped
that the matter of which complaint would be reviewed could
be settled at that time (ref a). (Note: The Majority wants
to review a complaint filed by a private citizen, which was
filed before that of the Opposition. The Opposition believes
that its amended complaint must be taken up. End Note.)

——-
Comment
——-

¶7. (C) Trying to spring Estrada from house arrest would be
politically hazardous for Arroyo even to think about.
Estrada is widely and accurately seen as corrupt (even his
supporters admit he played things close to the edge of the
law), and civil society and good government types would rip
into her unmercifully if she tried to help him out of his
legal problems. In any case, there is no indication that she
is about to agree to try to release him. Zamorra has made
previous claims that the Opposition was close to the numbers
needed for a Senate referral — and those claims did not pan
out. However, he is a well-connected contact, which is why
his recent comments are worth flagging.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
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You can also access this site through the State Department’s
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JOHNSON

   

 

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