Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/11/07MANILA3649.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA3649
2007-11-14 08:15
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8860
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF 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 SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 003649

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/15/2017
TAGS: PTER MOPS PINS RP
SUBJECT: DEATH OF A CONGRESSMAN: BASILAN’S COMPLEX CURRENTS

REF: A. MANILA 2369 (ARROYO ORDERS RULE OF LAW FOR

PERPETRATORS OF BEHEADINGS)
¶B. MANILA 2358 (JOINT COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE
ARMED CLASHES IN BASILAN)

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

¶1. (C) Summary: The death of controversial Basilan
Congressman Wahab Akbar in an explosion outside the
Congressional building November 13 was perhaps least a
surprise to him. While a powerful politician with strong
public support on his island province, he also acknowledged
that he had many enemies, not least from his days with the
terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and his background as a drug and
gun runner. Though a relative newcomer to politics, he was
successfully creating a political dynasty that includes one
of his four wives as governor of Basilan province and another
as mayor of Isabela, Basilan’s capital. However, he was
running up against his former terrorist colleagues; the
powerful Ampatuan clan, which controls the Muslim Autonomous
region that includes Basilan; and elements of the Philippine
security forces and Muslim insurgents, some of whom suspected
him of involvement in the July beheadings of 10 Marines on
Basilan. His relations with other political and extremist
factions on Basilan were equally fraught. The Philippine
National Police are working to establish the cause of the
explosion and determine whether this was a targeted
assassination — given his long list of enemies — or a more
general bombing of the House of Representatives that happened
to take him. The Ambassador conveyed condolences to Akbar’s
wife, House Speaker De Venecia and Malacanang Executive
Secretary Ermita and offered USG assistance in the

SIPDIS
investigation. She also commended the government for its
careful public stance on the incident, and not jumping to any
hasty conclusions. Akbar’s congressional seat will remain
open until the next elections in 2010, unless Congress calls
for a special election to fill the seat and appropriates the
funds. While the military situation on Basilan has improved
significantly in the months since the July Philippine Marine
beheadings, the Congressman’s death could roil both the
political and security situation there. End Summary.

—————-
Deadly Explosion
—————-

¶2. (U) At approximately 8:00 p.m. on November 13, at the
close of the day’s legislative session, a bomb reportedly
strapped to a parked motorcycle exploded at the driveway of
the House of Representatives’ south wing lobby. The
explosion killed three, including Basilan’s lone
Representative Wahab Akbar, one driver and a staffer. At
least 8 others were injured, including Gabriela Party-list
Representative Luz Ilagan and Negros Oriental Representative
Pryde Henry Teves, nephew of Finance Secretary Gary Teves.
Philippine police and security authorities are presently
investigating the incident.

——————-
Journey to Congress
——————-

¶3. (C) Akbar was among the more controversial figures in
Basilan’s violent sub-culture of “guns, goons, and gold.”
Born into abject poverty, Wahab wore many hats in his journey
to the halls of Congress — laborer, heavy equipment
operator, truck driver, bakery and fishpond owner, seafood
broker, self-confessed cigarette smuggler, former deputy
commander of the Moro National Liberation Front, co-founder
of the terrorist Abu Sayaaf Group, and Basilan Governor. An
alleged drug user and trafficker who previously studied
Islamic theology in Syria for five years, Akbar also prided
himself as a religious preacher.

————
Many Enemies
————

¶4. (C) With four wives and numerous children, Akbar’s
fiefdom on Basilan was composed of family members cum
politicians, including the current governor and mayors of at
least three municipalities. While building his political
fortunes with assistance from reputed Muslim “godfather”
Andal “Andy” Ampatuan, Akbar made many bitter enemies.
Former Basilan Congressman Gerry Salapuddin, who was defeated
by Akbar’s wife in the May 14, 2007, gubernatorial elections,
and Party-list Congressman Mujib Hataman, whose brother lost
to Akbar for a seat in Congress, accused Akbar of

MANILA 00003649 002 OF 003

embezzlement of public funds; illegal procurement and
distribution of firearms; and assistance to members of the
terrorist Abu Sayaaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah. Akbar’s
widely rumored political ambitions to replace Ampatuan’s son
as regional governor of the Muslim autonomous region angered
the patriarch of the Ampatuan clan.

¶5. (C) Akbar was also accused by some sectors as the
politician behind the July 10 beheadings of ten Philippine
Marines on Basilan. While identifying four suspected
perpetrators of the beheadings during a July 31 speech to
Congress, Akbar claimed that 80 per cent of Muslims in
Mindanao were sympathetic to the Abu Sayyaf, and blamed the
Armed Forces of the Philippines for triggering the “Basilan
incident” by intruding into a Moro Islamic Liberation Front
controlled area without proper coordination.

——————————————-
Status of Investigation and Embassy Support
——————————————-

¶6. (C) The Philippine National Police contacted the RSO
office shortly after the Nov. 13 explosion to notify the
Embassy of the incident. Around 2200 hrs, the Philippine
National Police requested the use of Embassy explosives
detection equipment to help determine the nature of the
materials used in the blast. The Embassy RSO office
conducted the analysis and found traces of the explosive PETN
on items recovered from the site. The Philippine National
Police are in charge of the ongoing investigation and are
conducting post-blast analysis. At this point, the police
have told the Embassy that they believe an improvised
explosive device was placed in the gas tank of a nearby
motorcycle and detonated as Akbar exited the Congress
building. Police also have told the Embassy that their
initial assessment is that Akbar was the target of the bomb.

¶7. (U) The Ambassador offered condolences to the Governor of
Basilan, one of the Congressman’s wives, who was clearly
distraught but appreciative of the expression of sympathy.
The Ambassador also voiced U.S. sympathy and concern to House
Speaker Jose De Venecia and Malacanang Executive Secretary
Eduardo Ermita. She offered Ermita USG assistance to the
Philippine National Policy in its blast investigation, and
commended him on the Philippine government’s careful and
cautious handling of the situation, including not making any
hasty public pronouncements on the cause or reasons for the
blast.

———————————-
Filling Akbar’s Congressional Seat
———————————-

¶8. (C) At this time, it is too early to determine if or when
Akbar,s congressional seat will be filled. The Commission
on Elections could hold special elections in Basilan to fill
his seat, but not without Congressional legislation first.
Congress must pass a bill to declare the seat vacant and call
on the Commission to hold the special election, as well as
appropriate additional funds for the administration of the
election. Under Philippine law, the election must be held
and the position filled not earlier than 60 days and not
later than 90 days after Congress declares the vacancy. A
Commission official told poloff that in this specific case
Congress may pass the required legislation for the special
election out of respect for their fallen colleague. The last
such special election was in 2002 when a congressman was
convicted of murder. If no special election is called,
Akbar,s seat will remain vacant until the next national
elections in 2010.

————
Press Stance
————

¶9. (U) Mission released the following public statement on the
incident on November 14:

The U.S. Embassy wishes to express shock and dismay over the
explosion that occurred outside the Philippine Congress the
night of November 13. We offer heartfelt condolences to the
loved ones of those who were killed, and hope for a speedy
recovery for those injured.

U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney called House Speaker Jose
De Venecia to convey the Embassy,s sorrow and condolences to
all those who play a role in the important work of the
Philippine House of Representatives.

MANILA 00003649 003 OF 003

We stand ready to provide assistance to the Philippine
National Police and the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines in their investigation of the explosion.

———
Comment
——-

¶10. (C) The coming days will see countless theories on why
Akbar died, and who might have been behind it. Already there
is speculation his death was the result of a political
struggle for control of the island or perhaps the work of
ideological rivals who want to take Basilan down a more
radical path. Others have suggested that this was
retribution from elements of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, who believe that Akbar was behind the July
beheadings of the Marines. At this point, there is no clear
evidence to support any theory, but it seems likely that with
his many family members and political followers, additional
acts of retribution or violence are possible. With U.S.
forces operating in and around Basilan in support of
Philippine Armed Forces activities, all Embassy elements will
continue to monitor events on Basilan and Mindanao closely in
the coming days and weeks.

KENNEY

   

 

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