Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/04/08MANILA881.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA881
2008-04-11 09:50
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #0881/01 1020950
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 110950Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0359
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 000881

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/09/2018
TAGS: CASC MARR MAS MCAP PREL RP
SUBJECT: COUP PLOTTERS’ CONVICTION WARNING AGAINST “MILITARY ADVENTURISM”

REF: A. MANILA 03800 STANDOFF WITH FORMER COUP PLOTTERS
ENDS PEACEFULLY
¶B. MANILA 03797 SENATOR AND FORMER COUP PLOTTERS
WALK OUT OF COURT PROCEEDINGS IN PROTEST

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Philippine government and military officials
are lauding the April 9 convictions of nine Philippine
military officers for attempting to overthrow the government
of President Arroyo in July 2003 as the first such
convictions in Philippine history. The officers recently
changed their pleas to guilty, but stiff sentences were meted
out to them for their roles in the failed coup plot: two Army
captains received life terms, and the others were sentenced
to 6-12 years. Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff
General Esperon told the Ambassador that the sentences were
“good,” as they sent a signal to both the Philippine military
and society that “military adventurism was ending.” In
response to rumors of possible presidential pardons for the
nine officers, General Esperon confided to the Ambassador
that it was not his decision to make, but at the proper time
“it might be the right thing to do.” General Esperon went on
to say he hoped the soldiers could be rehabilitated and
possibly even be brought back into the Philippine military,
similar to other former military officers who have been
arrested and detained for trying to topple previous
administrations. END SUMMARY.

——————
THE OAKWOOD MUTINY
——————

¶2. (U) On July 27, 2003, 31 junior officers from the
Philippine military, citing pervasive corruption at the
highest levels of the Arroyo Administration, seized the
Oakwood Premier Apartment complex in Makati City in an
attempt to force President Arroyo to resign. The episode
included then-Navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes, who later
was elected to the Senate while under detention, and
Brigadier General Danilo Lim, later arrested for his role in
a separate coup plot in February 2006. The plotters succeeded
in rigging the Oakwood building with explosives, but
surrendered peacefully to authorities nineteen hours later.
All 31 soldiers were arrested and charged with plotting to
overthrow the government. A commission established by the
Arroyo Administration later that year alleged that this
action by military officers was part of a larger conspiracy
to topple the government.

—————
HARSH SENTENCES
—————

¶3. (C) Unlike Senator Trillanes and General Lim, who
participated in several coup attempts (REF B), senior
military and political leaders widely believe that many of
the officers involved in the Oakwood incident — including
those convicted April 9 — were young officers whose idealism
allowed them to be misled. After spending five years in
detention, the nine soldiers changed their pleas to guilty,
reportedly to win leniency from the court. The judge,
however, gave them harsh sentences — 6-12 years for seven of
the officers, and life sentences (up to 40 years) for two
captains.

¶4. (C) During an April 9 ceremony commemorating the
sacrifices of U.S. and Philippine soldiers at Bataan and
Corregidor, Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff General
Hermogenes Esperon confided to the Ambassador that the
sentences were “good” as they sent a strong signal to both
the Philippine military and society that “military
adventurism was ending.” In response to rumors of possible
presidential pardons for the convicted nine junior officers,
General Esperon told the Ambassador that it was not his
decision to make, but at the proper time, “it might be the
right thing to do.” General Esperon also went on to praise
one of the convicted plotters, Philippine Army Captain
Gerardo Gambala, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, as
an excellent officer who had served on his operations staff
in Mindanao. Noting that Gambala had distinguished himself
at the Philippine military academy, Esperon voiced the hope
that officers like Captain Gambala could be rehabilitated and
perhaps even be brought back into the Philippine military.

—————

FUTURE PARDONS?
—————

5.(C) The potential for rehabilitation and acceptance back
into the military is not unknown in the Philippines, as
former military officers who have been arrested and convicted
of trying to topple previous administrations have returned
from jail to pursue successful careers in the military as
well as in politics. A good example of an officer whose
career was not hurt by participation in an attempted coup is
Marine Corps Brigadier General Juancho Sabban, current
commander of the Marine Task Force in Sulu. While a junior
officer, he was involved in a plot to overthrow the
government of then-President Cory Aquino. Another Philippine
military officer whose attempts at destabilizing various
Philippine governments have not adversely affected his
electability is Senator Gregorio Honasan. Honasan, a
Philippine Military Academy graduate, was charged and
arrested for his alleged involvement in multiple coups
attempts against former President Aquino in the 1990s and was
arrested and detained for his alleged involvement in the 2003
Oakwood mutiny. He eventually was elected Senator.

¶6. (C) Lawyers representing some of the convicted officers
recently cited unnamed Arroyo administration official as
being amenable to some form of presidential pardon or a
possible reduction in their clients’ sentences. They also
speculated that the convicted officers might serve time in
prison until the end of President Arroyo’s term in 2010, when
she might grant them a pardon. Chief Presidential Legal
Council Sergio Apostol was quoted as saying the nine officers
convicted on April 9 qualified for presidential pardons, like
any other convict.
KENNEY

   

 

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