Oct 232014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3697 2005-08-10 08:19 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 003697



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/10/2015


¶B. MANILA 3458
¶C. MANILA 3391
¶D. MANILA 3367
¶E. VATICAN 0500
¶F. MANILA 3202

Classified By: Political Officer Timothy Cipullo
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: There has been continued bickering in the
House over the Opposition’s impeachment complaint against
President Arroyo. Formal hearings in the Justice Committee
began on August 10, with pro-Arroyo members immediately
raising procedural questions about the nature of the
complaint, while the Opposition charged that the Majority is
seeking to derail debate. The Opposition has faced recent
setbacks when two witnesses walked back charges that they had
made in the Senate’s illegal gambling hearings. One contact
told us that the Papal Nuncio has taken to task Archbishop
Oscar Cruz, a Catholic prelate who has been working closely
with the Opposition regarding the illegal gambling hearings,
warning him to stay out of politics. Overall, the
Opposition’s effort to undermine Arroyo appears to have run
out of some steam of late. End Summary.

Justice Committee Off to Rocky Start

¶2. (SBU) Although the House of Representatives has agreed to
the basic rules on how to handle the Opposition’s impeachment
complaint against President Arroyo (ref a), members continue
to squabble over procedural and technical matters. The House
Justice Committee began its formal hearings on the complaint
on August 10 with the aim of resolving the issue of which
complaint to review, i.e., that filed by 42 pro-Opposition
members on July 25 or that filed by a private citizen on June
¶27. The Opposition, claiming that it now has more than 50
endorsements, said it would be ludicrous for the Committee to
review anything but its complaint. Some pro-Arroyo members
disagreed, asserting that the Committee had an obligation to
review the first complaint filed.

¶3. (SBU) The session quickly devolved into charges and
counter-charges over technical issues. Opposition lawmakers,
for example, sharply questioned Committee Chairman Simeon
Datumanong’s decision to prohibit non-Committee members from
participating in the proceedings, saying he had violated
existing rules. They also demanded a change in venue to
accommodate all interested parties, and equal access to
microphones for members and non-members. Further, they
demanded that the Committee speed up the proceedings by
holding more than one session per week. Thirty minutes into
the proceedings, Chairman Datumanong announced that he was
suspending the Committee’s hearings until at least August 15
and he called for an in camera executive session to be held
later in the day to review outstanding issues. The
Opposition charged that the move was an effort to derail

Witness Problems for the Opposition

¶4. (SBU) The Opposition faced recent setbacks when two
witnesses walked back charges that they had made in the
Senate’s jueting (illegal gambling) hearings into whether
members of the President’s family received payoffs. On
August 4, Richard Garcia, a key witness, tearfully apologized
and — addressing his remarks to the President — stated that
Opposition members had coerced him into testifying against
the first family. Garcia went on to announce that he had no
personal knowledge of alleged Arroyo family involvement in
the payoff scheme. On August 8, a second witness, Abe Riva,
also apologized to the President in public, stating that
Opposition members had coached him to link the First Family
to jeuteng operations.

¶5. (SBU) Shaking off these setbacks, the Opposition is
pressing on with new witnesses in the jueteng hearings.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a major Opposition figure,
called Captain Marlon Mendoza, a serving Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) army officer, to testify on August 10. In
his remarks at the hearing, Mendoza sought to corroborate
former Malacanang official Michaelangelo Zuce’s recent
testimony that Arroyo paid COMELEC officials to ensure her
victory in the 2004 elections (ref a). Even before Mendoza’s
appearance, the AFP had begun to cast doubt upon his
credibility. Military sources have alleged that Mendoza has
been involved in “shady deals” and that he faces a
court-martial for involvement in a racket to sell fake
military IDs and other items. The AFP also warned that
Mendoza may face penalties for involving himself in politics.
Archbishop Reportedly Taken to Task

¶6. (C) A Catholic prelate close to the Opposition appears to
be in some trouble with the Church hierarchy. In an August 9
meeting, Monsignor Hernando Coronel, General Secretary of the
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), told
Acting Pol/C that Papal Nuncio Antonio Franco summoned
Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a well-known anti-jueting crusader, to
his office last week. According to Coronel, the Papal Nuncio
told Cruz that the Church did not approve of the role he was
playing, and advised him to disengage from politics and the
jueteng hearings. The Nuncio pointed out that Cruz and by
extension the Church were receiving bad publicity because of
the recent setbacks faced by Opposition witnesses recommended
by Cruz (Cruz was close to Garcia and Riva). Coronel, noting
that many bishops in the CBCP were uncomfortable with Cruz,
remarked that Cruz was stubborn, and predicted that Cruz
would press on with his anti-jueteng campaign. Cruz, indeed,
turned up at the August 10 Senate hearings and in his
testimony gave no sign of backing off his charges.


¶7. (C) The Opposition has given every sign that it will
continue to try to pressure Arroyo whenever possible.
Overall, however, the effort to undermine Arroyo seems to
have run out of some steam. The Opposition appears to have
given the anti-Arroyo effort its very best shot in the past
two months, and, after doing some real damage, is now
re-grouping and examining its tactics and strategy. This is
good news for Arroyo who has also improved her standing
modestly in the polls of late. Papal Nuncio Franco,
meanwhile, has recently shown himself to be quite an activist
given his address to the CBCP in early July urging a
restrained approach regarding the political situation (refs e
and f) and Coronel’s comments about the meeting with Cruz.

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