Sep 152014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3187 2005-07-11 09:23 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 003187



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


¶B. MANILA 3167
¶C. MANILA 3163
¶D. MANILA 3161
¶E. MANILA 3154
¶F. MANILA 3153

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

¶1. (C) Summary: According to political contacts, the July
10 statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the
Philippines has bought President Arroyo more time by not
explicitly calling for her resignation. In a brief radio
address on July 10, Arroyo welcomed the statement and said
she planned to re-focus on her substantive agenda. The
opposition continues to demand Arroyo’s resignation and is
planning more rallies. Although Arroyo has gained some
breathing room, she remains under pressure and the political
controversy is set to continue into the near-term at the very
least. End Summary.

CBCP’s Statement

¶2. (C) The consensus view of political contacts is that the
July 10 statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the
Philippines (CBCP) has bought President Arroyo more time by
not explicitly calling for her resignation (ref B).
Congressman Gilberto Teodoro, who is pro-Arroyo, told poloff
late July 10 that the CBCP could easily have undermined
Arroyo if it had called for her to leave office immediately,
as many other well-known figures and organizations have
recently done (reftels). By not doing so, he said, the
Church had given her time to try to explain herself. Ben
Evardone, the Governor of Eastern Samar and the head of an
organization of local officials, commented: “We hope now
that the Catholic Church has spoken, (Arroyo and the
government) can proceed to the more urgent task of nation
building.” Benito Lim, a well-known political commentator at
the University of the Philippines, stated: “It will give her
enough time to organize and dissipate the power of the
opposition. In terms of boxing, this round went to Arroyo,
but she has not won the battle yet.”

¶3. (C) Teodoro also opined that the CBCP’s statement
represented a “paradigm shift” because the Church was showing
a newfound inclination not to involve itself in political
matters. In a July 9 meeting held before the CBCP statement
was issued, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal accurately predicted to
Acting Pol/C that the CBCP as a whole would decide not to ask
Arroyo to resign in explicit terms. (Note: Mission has
heard reports that Vidal remains close to opposition figures
and is no fan of Arroyo’s, but he has never made public any
personal views on the current situation. End Note.)
Explaining this posture, he said the Church no longer wanted
to be “a political arbiter,” but instead wanted to focus on
its “pastoral duties.” This, Cardinal Vidal said, was unlike
in past years when the Church was heavily influenced by (the
now deceased) Cardinal Sin. Bishop of Antique Romulo de la
Cruz also told Acting Pol/C on July 9 that the Church “does
not aim to assist Arroyo or not…What we want is to be good
pastors to our flock and that means focusing ourselves on
faith, not politics.”

Arroyo Welcomes Statement

¶4. (U) In a brief audiotaped address delivered late July 10
on national TV and radio, Arroyo welcomed the CBCP’s
statement and said she planned to re-focus on her substantive
agenda. Arroyo said, in part, “I appreciate their (the
bishops’) collective voice of moderation and temperance in
this time of soul-searching.” Arroyo repeated her desire to
move forward and focus on the economy, and said her
administration wanted to work closely with the Catholic
Church and civil society in order to “build a better quality
of life for the people of the Philippines and to put an end
to the political bickering that is causing so much harm to
our nation.” She pledged to do “everything within (her)
power to earn (the people’s) trust and support.”

¶5. (U) Malacanang officials spent the weekend defending the
President. At a July 9 midday press conference carried live
by most TV stations and many radio stations, Cabinet members
— including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Secretary
for Political Affairs Gabriel “Gabby” Claudio, and
Environment Secretary Mike Defensor — strongly criticized
the group of former Cabinet officials who called for Arroyo
to resign on July 8. Defensor accused the former Cabinet
officials and Senate President Franklin Drilon — of
“betrayal” and of “conspiring to overthrow the Arroyo
administration.” Claudio lamented that the former Cabinet
members had resorted to what he said was “disparagement” of
the President in order to “assert their own political views.”
Ermita characterized the ongoing political controversy as
“more political noise in Manila,” and asserted that Arroyo
still enjoyed overwhelming support in both the Visayan and
Mindanao regions of the country. Claudio and Defensor
reiterated a July 8 call by President Arroyo that asked
opponents to refer complaints against her to Congress where
legislators could choose to impeach her for any alleged

Opposition’s Next Steps

¶6. (C) The opposition continues to demand Arroyo’s
resignation and is planning more rallies. Teodoro “Teddy”
Casino, a leftist congressman, told poloff July 11 that the
opposition would continue to demand that Arroyo either be
impeached or resign. Father Joe Dizon, a left-wing priest,
separately promised that the opposition would “redouble its
efforts” to turn out a large crowd at a planned July 13 rally
in the central Manila business district of Makati. Casino
claimed that turnout at the coming rallies could be
significantly increased if Makati Business Club (MBC) member
companies gave employees time off and encouraged them to
attend opposition rallies. (Note: The MBC on July 8 asked
the President to step down. End Note.) Opposition figure
Horatio “Boy” Morales told the media that the opposition’s
goal was to get one million protesters in place on July 13.
Renato Reyes, a militant leftist organizer, however,
commented that he thought that the rally might attract an
estimated 50,000 people. (Note: No rally held so far during
this controversy has exceeded 10,000 people. End Note.)
Meanwhile, Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, the spokesman of the
New People’s Army (NPA), announced over the radio on July 10
that the NPA would “intensify its armed revolution in the
countryside” in order “to support the planned mass actions”
calling on Arroyo to resign. So far, there are no signs of
an uptick in NPA activity.

¶7. (SBU) Several groups have newly joined the calls for
Arroyo to step down. University groups including student
councils from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo
University, and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines
said she should leave office or face “people power” protests.
The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the
Philippines, an influential group of activist Catholic
priests and nuns, issued a statement on July 8 asking the
President to resign. The Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang
Makabansa (RAM) movement, an opposition group consisting of a
small number of active and retired members of the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP), criticized all politicians
in a July 10 statement and threatened to intervene if the
Constitution were not upheld. In the statement, RAM called
on all politicians to follow the rule of law and, if
necessary, “allow resignation or impeachment to take place.”

¶8. (C) July 8 was a rocky day for Arroyo to put it mildly.
The rapid fire announcements by the former Cabinet members,
former President Aquino, Senate President Drilon, the Makati
Business Club, etc., asking her to go was devastating. On
the plus side for Arroyo, however, was former President
Ramos’s decision to appear at Malacanang July 8 and publicly
state that she should not resign — and the CBCP’s
well-publicized statement. Although Arroyo has gained some
breathing room, she remains under pressure and the political
controversy seems set to continue well into the near-term at
the very least. Mission will continue to stress to Filipinos
the need for accountability and the rule of law, and
underscore the USG’s strong opposition to any
extra-constitutional or extra-legal moves. Septel will
review continued turbulence on the economic front.

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