Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/01/06MANILA350.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA350
2006-01-25 09:13
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO1231
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0350/01 0250913
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 250913Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8816
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000350

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP, INR/B

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/25/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINS PINR PHUM SOCI RP
SUBJECT: “COUNCIL OF STATE” MEETING: MUCH HYPE, BUT LITTLE SUBSTANCE

REF: A. MANILA 323

¶B. MANILA 242
¶C. MANILA 81
¶D. 05 MANILA 5965

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Joseph L. Novak for
reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: A Malacanang-sponsored Council of State
meeting took place on January 24. The meeting brought
together some 75 notables to discuss “issues of national
interest,” though the Opposition largely boycotted the
meeting. The group agreed to create a commission to advocate
for Constitutional changes that would turn the current
bicameral system into a parliament by 2007. President
Arroyo, who made a strong pitch for national unity in her
remarks, also used the occasion to announce that a former
Supreme Court Chief Justice would serve as her adviser on
electoral reform. The event was much hyped, but of little
substance. End Summary.

————————————–
Led by President Arroyo, Council meets
————————————–

¶2. (U) A Malacanang-sponsored Council of State meeting took
place on January 24. The meeting brought together a wide
selection of Filipino notables to discuss issues of national
interest (see refs A and C for further background on the
rarely-called Council of State meetings). President Arroyo
presided over the meeting, which was also attended by Vice
President Noli De Castro, Speaker Jose De Venecia, and former
president Fidel V. Ramos. There was also a sprinkling of
representation by governors and mayors, as well as religious,
business and labor figures. Despite Malacanang’s entreaties,
the Opposition largely boycotted the meeting, attacking the
GRP’s claims that the meeting could help unite the country.
The lone pro-Opposition representative present was Senator
Francis Pangilinan of the Liberal Party.

——————————————
Discussions focus on Constitutional Change
——————————————

¶3. (U) The discussions at the closed-door, four-hour meeting
kicked off with a brief speech by President Arroyo. Arroyo
urged attendees to use the meeting to address the country’s
pressing problems and “to unite, not divide” the nation. She
added:

“We’re gathered here to discuss issues of great weight and
importance to the nation: our economy, our system of
governance, our electoral process. These are by no means the
limits of the issues pressing the nation: the fight against
terrorism, the fight for political stability, the fight
against poverty and the fight to re-engage the Philippines in
world affairs. Each of these matters is essential to our
nation and for the core of my work everyday. I hope we make
progress on all of these issues.”

¶4. (SBU) The bulk of the meeting focused on proposed
Constitutional changes. Amid some give and take,
participants (except for the senators present, see below)
agreed that Constitutional change was important and that it
should move forward. On specifics, there was little
dissension from Malacanang’s view of the issues involved,
including those expressed by a Presidential Commission that
issued its report in December 2005 (ref D). Most
participants, for example, agreed with a plan that would have
the country’s current bicameral system converted into a
parliamentary system by 2007 headed by a prime minister.
President Arroyo would be allowed to serve out her term until
2010 when the prime minister position gained executive
powers. One interesting element was the basic agreement of
those assembled to the idea that legislative elections should
take place in 2007 as planned. In its recent report, the
Presidential Commission had urged that elections in 2007 be
canceled, with sitting House and Senate members merging
together to form a parliament. Having publicly lambasted the
idea of scrapping them as “a terrible idea,” former president
Ramos welcomed the agreement at the Council meeting that
elections should be held. (Note: Ramos, who has had tense
ties with Malacanang over possible Constitutional change,
seemed relatively upbeat about the meeting. End Note.)

¶5. (SBU) Most of the eight senators present did not endorse
the proposed Constitutional changes. This was not a

MANILA 00000350 002 OF 002

surprise: for various reasons, including the fact that the
Senate stands to be dissolved per the proposals on the table,
most senators are either opposed to such change or have not
yet committed themselves.

¶6. (U) President Arroyo proposed and the group accepted the
idea of forming a 15-member commission (made up of
non-politicians) that would advocate for Constitutional
change at a national level. President Arroyo made clear that
she wanted the commission to be a clearinghouse for
information on the subject, as well as a vehicle to provide
information on the topic to the public at large. (Note:
Most polls indicate that the matter of Constitutional change
is not a priority for the public and that the issue is poorly
understood. End Note.)

—————-
Electoral Reform
—————-

¶7. (U) Another topic that came up at the meeting was
electoral reform. Participants recognized that the
Philippines has real problems with its electoral system due
to lack of proper equipment and poorly-trained personnel,
amid other problematic areas. Participants agreed that the
GRP’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC) needs further
support, as well as re-structuring. At the close of the
meeting, President Arroyo announced that she was naming
Hilario Davide Jr., who recently retired as the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court, to serve as her adviser on electoral
reform. Arroyo’s announcement was greeted with applause as
Davide has a reputation for integrity. Davide has 60 days to
draft recommendations on the subject.

¶8. (U) The meeting also discussed rural development, law and
order, and some other issues, but only briefly. Such issues
as counterterrorism, negotiations with the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front, and the New People’s Army insurgency were
not discussed. The group did not issue an official statement
at the meeting’s close, though Malacanang issued some press
releases.

——-
Comment
——-

¶9. (C) The meeting was much hyped, but of little substance.
The fact that the Opposition did not attend obviously helped
prevent a real give-and-take on the country’s problems. The
participants were overwhelmingly allies of the President’s,
which made for a bit of a restrained discussion. President
Arroyo does merit commendation for at least reaching out to
the Opposition and inviting it to participate. Her comments
at the event were also moderate in tone and inclusive.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

Bellard

   

 

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