Oct 212014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/10/09MANILA2216.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2216
2009-10-21 09:08
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO5583
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DE RUEHML #2216/01 2940908
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O 210908Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5485
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002216

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PINS ASEC RP
SUBJECT: CHARGE D’AFFAIRES COURTESY CALL ON COTABATO CITY MAYOR

REF: A. MANILA 2198 (CHARGE DISCUSSES PEACE PROSPECTS
TERRORISM WITH MILF LEADER)
¶B. MANILA 2055 (TWO U.S. SERVICEMEMBERS KILLED IN
ROADSIDE EXPLOSION ON JOLO ISLAND)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reasons 1.4. (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The Charge d’Affaires on October 16 paid a
courtesy call on Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who
welcomed the Charge on her first visit to the city. Sema
expressed gratitude for U.S. development assistance and noted
its tremendous impact on impoverished communities in central
Mindanao, though he lamented the lack of support from the
central government to speed the return of internally
displaced persons to their home villages. The Moro National
Liberation Front (MNLF) under Sema’s leadership supported the
convergence of the government’s two peace processes in
Mindanao, but the Mayor noted the MNLF’s difficulty in
asserting itself and pursuing dialogue with the rural-based
separatist Muslim group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Expressing concern about the deteriorating security
situation in parts of Mindanao, Sema expressed condolences
for the deaths last month of two U.S. servicemembers on the
island of Jolo, and acknowledged that rogue MNLF elements had
likely been involved. END SUMMARY.

GRATITUDE FOR U.S. DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE
—————————————–

¶2. (C) In the Charge d’Affaires first visit to the office of
Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema on October 16, the Mayor
expressed appreciation for U.S. development assistance
projects in and around his city, but also said he worried
about flooding and the slow return of internally displaced
persons (IDPs) to their villages. U.S. development
assistance continued to have a positive impact on the region,
the Mayor said, and he described how he had been particularly
touched by projects that brought potable water and
solar-power electricity to his home village. Despite the
July ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF), Sema said that IDPs remained
reluctant to leave the security of IDP camps. Additional
support services such as housing and livelihood programs
could help encourage families to return to their villages,
but assistance for conflict-affected communities from the
government’s Task Force on Health, Education, Livelihood, and
Progress was too slow in coming. To address another
challenge, major flooding, a massive rehabilitation program
was needed to prevent heavy silting in one of the city’s
rivers.

SUPPORT FOR MNLF AND MILF PEACE PROCESSES
—————————————–

¶3. (C) Sema expressed his support for the government’s peace
processes with separatist and insurgent groups in Mindanao,
though he was uncertain if the parties were serious enough to
complete peace talks before the end of President Arroyo’s
term. He said he advised the GRP to fast-track
implementation of the government’s 1996 peace agreement with
the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) so that MNLF
factions would not be incited to violence. Moving forward,
he continued, the best solution would be to harmonize peace
and development initiatives of the MILF and MNLF peace
processes “under one umbrella,” though the Mayor acknowledged
that differences between the MILF and MNLF still remained —
such as the fundamental difficulty of conducting dialogue
with MILF “comrades who remained in the jungle.” Still, Sema
described the MNLF as being “sidelined” in the peace process,
a consequence of having too few MNLF members with stature to
assert themselves on peace process issues. Though Sema
himself was involved in the peace process, he acknowledged
the difficulties in handling the combined duties of Mayor and
MNLF Chairman. The Charge said that the MNLF’s ability to
achieve the 1996 peace agreement with the government was
proof that peace processes in Mindanao can work if the
parties worked hard at it, which all sides should continue to
do.

CONCERN ABOUT SECURITY SITUATION
——————————–

¶4. (C) Sema and the Charge both expressed concern about
evidence of a deteriorating security situation in parts of
Mindanao, starting with the Red Cross worker kidnappings on
Jolo earlier this year, the deaths in September of two U.S.
servicemembers on Jolo island (Ref B), and the recent
kidnapping of Irish Catholic priest Michael Sinnott. Sema

MANILA 00002216 002 OF 002

offered condolences for the U.S. servicemembers’ deaths,
which he blamed on the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and
an MNLF faction led by Commander “Ajimoun.” On top of the
challenge of dealing with security concerns, Sema said he
faced opposition from some in the Muslim community who
labeled the MNLF as “traitors” to the Muslim cause because of
the group’s cooperation with the Philippine government. The
Charge noted the U.S. would appreciate any support Sema could
offer in the investigation of the deaths of the U.S.
servicemembers and in the case of Sinnott’s kidnapping.
Noting the importance of public perception, the Charge
thanked the Mayor for his support in helping Filipinos
understand that U.S. servicemembers in Mindanao are
contributing to humanitarian assistance and development
projects.

COMMENT
——-

¶5. (C) Sema has been a consistent supporter of formalized
peace processes to resolve the grievances of the MNLF and
MILF. However, given his admission of feeling “sidelined,”
he may face mounting pressure from some in the Muslim
community — and his chief competitor, erstwhile MNLF leader
Nur Misuari — to push the government to do more to fulfill
its commitments under the 1996 peace agreement. Contacts
have reported that Misuari, who has retained the support of
the Organization of the Islamic Conference, continues to
portray himself as the real leader of the MNLF, and may be
pursuing alliances with various dissatisfied groups
throughout Mindanao, including indigenous groups in Bukidnon
and a self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu on the island of Jolo,
to oppose a government peace deal with the MILF. Misuari’s
maneuvering could complicate Sema’s hope for a combined peace
settlement addressing both MNLF and MILF aspirations.

KENNEY

   

 

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