Oct 232014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-12-23 06:59
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.

230659Z Dec 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005947



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/23/2015

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

¶1. (C) Summary: Charge recently held separate meetings with
key Opposition figures Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and
House Minority Leader Francis “Chiz” Escudero. Lacson and
Escudero were a contrast in perspectives and style. Lacson
predicted that new impeachment charges would be filed against
President Arroyo at the earliest opportunity (mid-July).
Lacson considered himself Arroyo’s logical successor, having
run against her in the 2004 elections. Escudero, a younger,
more charismatic politician, was more relaxed regarding
President Arroyo, indicating that there were areas where he
would try to work with her. Overall, the meetings served to
confirm the fragmented nature of the Opposition and its
almost complete lack of a substantive agenda. End Summary.

A Hard-Edged Lacson

¶2. (C) Charge had lunch with Lacson on December 22. Lito
Banayo, a long-time political associate of Lacson’s, also
attended, along with A/Pol/C. Throughout the meeting, Lacson
was grim-faced about President Arroyo and the need to remove
her from office. He said he considered her corrupt and
ineffective in tackling the country’s problems. When asked
about Opposition plans in the coming year, Lacson made clear
that he would support the filing of new impeachment charges
in the House at the earliest possible opportunity in the new
year. (Note: Per the Constitution, the earliest opportunity
would be mid-July, one year after the filing of the last set
of charges, which were dismissed by the House in September.
End Note.) Lacson said a renewed impeachment effort would
probably include a rehash of the old charges (which involved
various abuse of power charges, including claims that
President Arroyo cheated in the May 2004 elections). In
addition, the Opposition would throw in any new charges that
came up in the meantime. Banayo mentioned allegations that
there had been large-scale misappropriation of the GRP’s
fertilizer fund, which he averred the Arroyo administration
was trying to cover up. (Note: There have been claims that
former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante mismanaged
the use of the roughly USD 14 million fertilizer program in
order to provide funds for President Arroyo’s re-election
campaign and the campaigns of some of her supporters.
Bolante has failed to appear despite being called by the
Senate to testify on the matter on several occasions. End

¶3. (C) Lacson said he had little hope that large crowds of
demonstrators would appear on the streets demanding President
Arroyo’s departure in the coming year. The Opposition had
tried that tactic during the summer 2005 turbulence, but it
had not worked. New revelations could change public
perceptions, however. He also added that he did not think
President Arroyo had any intention of leaving power early as
part of the ongoing debate over Constitutional change.
Indeed, he noted that a commission chosen by President Arroyo
to look into the matter had recently recommended that she
remain in power until her term ends in 2010. Lacson added
that he did not support changing the Constitution to provide
for a parliamentary system. The proposers of such changes
had not proved to his satisfaction that their plans would
truly reform the system and help solve the country’s

¶4. (C) Lacson indicated that he had no plans to work with
the administration on any issue. He noted that he had once
supported proposed anti-terrorism legislation, but was now
convinced that the administration wanted to use such
legislation against Opposition members. In any case, Lacson
said the proposed bill faced significant opposition in the
Senate, which could only be overcome by a devoted effort by
the Arroyo camp. (Lacson noted that President Arroyo could
win votes by providing “favors” for legislators.) Queried
about his future, Lacson said that he no longer had any plans
to run for mayor of Manila in 2007. He was now “sick” of
politics and planned to get out when his term ended in 2007,
though he would continue to monitor the situation and might
re-engage in the future. Lacson noted, however, that he
considered himself Arroyo’s logical successor if she ever
stepped down, having run against her in the 2004 elections.

An Accommodating Escudero

¶5. (C) In his December 14 meeting with Charge, Congressman
Escudero made clear that he was a long-standing opponent of
President Arroyo’s, but that he remained on speaking terms
with her (unlike Lacson and many other Opposition leaders).
He felt that he could work with the administration on
various issues. For example, while he was critical of the
proposed anti-terrorism bill, which he felt was in part
targeted at members of the Opposition, he planned to continue
to work with pro-President Arroyo representatives on the
matter. He said he also would carefully consider
Constitutional change proposals, though he doubted that the
Senate would be receptive to the overall concept of getting
rid of the body in order to create a unicameral system.
Escudero did not mention a renewed impeachment effort against
the President.

¶6. (C) When asked about the state of the Opposition,
Escudero was negative, criticizing other leaders such as
former senator Loren Legarda and her effort to throw out the
results of the 2004 vice presidential election. (Note:
Legarda was the losing vice presidential candidate in the
race and claims that current VP Noli de Castro cheated to
win. End Note.) Escudero said both sides cheated in the
vice presidential election. Regarding his political future,
Escudero confirmed that he planned to run in the 2007
elections for the Senate. (Note: Escudero has served in the
House since 1998 and, after serving three terms, faces term
limits in 2007. End Note.) As for further plans, Escudero
commented that he plans to “to run until he loses,” implying
that he was even envisaging the presidency as a possibility
down the line.


¶7. (C) The meetings served to confirm the fragmented nature
of Opposition ranks. Lacson and Escudero, two major
Opposition personalities, took dramatically different
approaches toward President Arroyo, indicating there is
little Opposition unity on how to deal with her. The
meetings also highlighted the Opposition’s almost complete
lack of a substantive agenda. Lacson and Escudero’s views
were almost entirely tactical in nature: there was no
apparent substantive plan of attack on President Arroyo on
economic or other grounds. This is certainly good news for
President Arroyo. Her standing remains low in the polls, but
she can take some comfort from the lack of a coherent
Opposition approach.

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