Oct 232014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-10-18 08:45
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.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 004934



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/19/2015


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

¶1. (C) Summary: The October 14 dispersal of a small
Opposition rally has sparked a sharp debate over the GRP’s
tactics. The Opposition and many in the media have
criticized the police, asserting that the use of water
cannons was not appropriate, for example. Malacanang —
while not endorsing the specific tactics used on October 14
— has defended its policy of “calibrated response” to
rallies, asserting that protests need municipal permits
(which the October 14 demonstration did not have). While
Malacanang’s desire to keep rallies within limits is
understandable (many in the public see the constant stream of
protests as an annoyance), the Opposition may be earning some
points by making it seem that it is the victim of hard-line
tactics. End Summary.

Police Disperse Anti-Arroyo Rally

¶2. (U) The October 14 dispersal of a small rally near
Malacanang has sparked a heated debate over the Arroyo’s
administration’s tactics vis-a-vis Opposition activities.
Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) using water
cannons dispersed the small anti-government rally at the
Mendiola Bridge, a traditional anti-government protest venue
in the vicinity of Malacanang Palace in Manila.
Approximately 500-600 participants had converged earlier on
Plaza Miranda (another well-known protest site) to denounce
President Arroyo and demand her resignation. Key figures at
the rally included former vice president Teofisto Guingona,
Senator Jamby A.S. Madrigal, leftist party-list
Representatives Satur Ocampo and Rissa Hontiveros Baraquiel,
and TV personality Oscar Orbos. They were joined by
left-leaning Catholic Bishops Julio Labayen, Antonio Tobias,
Deogracias Iniguez, and a clutch of radical priests and nuns
from the “pro-poor,” anti-Arroyo Kilusang Makabayang
Economiya (“Movement for a Nationalist Economy”) group. The
controversial incident took place when rally participants
tried the obligatory “march on Malacanang.”

¶3. (U) When questioned about the incident, the PNP asserted
that the group of protesters tried to break through a police
cordon to march on the Mendiola Bridge, an area that has
recently been designated as a “no-protest” zone by municipal
authorities (due to its accessibility to Malacanang). After
heated verbal exchanges and minor scuffles, police said they
had to disperse the group with high pressure water cannons
and ordinary fire hoses. Defending its tactics, the PNP
noted that no serious injuries were reported and no arrests
were made. (Note: The PNP announced on October 18, however,
that it planned to file charges against Guingona, Madrigal,
and Orbos for violating the Public Assembly Act, which
prohibits holding a rally without a permit. End Note.)

Opposition Denounces Malacanang Tactics

¶4. (U) The Opposition and many in the media have criticized
the police reaction to the rally, asserting that the use of
water cannons was not appropriate and that the crowd should
have been allowed to march. Newspapers and telecasts, for
example, were full of reports on the rally, showing drenched
participants and minor scuffles. Press commentators, in both
pro-Arroyo and Opposition-leaning newspapers, criticized the
PNP’s actions, as well as Malacanang’s policy on
demonstrations (see below). At an Opposition press
conference held October 16, rally participants denounced the
police action as “a violent” curtailment of the right to
freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and — citing the
fact that several in the clergy had been effected — said it
was a matter of “disrespect” to faith and religion. They
disclosed their plan to file administrative and criminal
charges against the PNP. They also threatened to bring their
case to the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), claiming
that the incident amounted to “a clear violation of human

¶5. (SBU) Malacanang and the police also took some flak from
an influential source: Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who is
slated to succeed Archbishop Fernando Capalla as head of the
Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on
December 1, said the incident was “uncalled for and
objectionable.” Lagdameo’s comments were noteworthy to the
extent that he is an influential prelate and generally
considered apolitical. Capalla (who is generally considered
to be close to the Administration) was quoted from Rome as
stating that the whole matter was not a CBCP affair.

Malacanang Defends Its Policies

¶6. (U) Malacanang — while not endorsing the specific police
tactics used on October 14 — has defended its “Calibrated
Preemptive Response” policy, known widely by the acronym
“CPR,” in regard to rallies. (Note: The CPR policy was
announced on September 21. It basically requires that
municipalities enforce strictly the requirements that
protests be staged only in designated areas and with
government permits. Police may use “reasonable force” to
disperse any unauthorized rallies, according to the policy.
End Note.) Malacanang officials said that CPR is necessary
to protect the public from Opposition attempts “to turn the
streets to chaos” via “uncontrolled” rallies and marches
Officials added that the October 14 incident — while
“unfortunate” — had not change its mind about forcefully
dealing with “unpermitted” rallies. For its part, PNP Chief
Arturo Lomibao said his organization took responsibility for
the incident, saying it was a “judgment call” for the
commander on the scene to use high pressure water to break up
the rally. An internal PNP investigation of the incident
cleared all officers involved, saying their actions were


¶7. (C) Malacanang’s desire to keep rallies within limits is
understandable — many of the Opposition’s public events in
recent months have disrupted traffic and impacted negatively
on business activities. For example, in the business center
of Makati where the mayor is pro-Opposition, there have been
a string of rallies in recent months that have tied up
commuter traffic for hours. Despite the annoyance that
rallies cause, however, the Opposition may be earning some
points with the public by making it seem that it is the
victim of hard-line tactics — a view that the media has
generally been sympathetic to. Malacanang has also been seen
as coming on too strong thanks to recent comments by some GRP
officials to the effect that plans to impose “emergency rule”
are being studied, though sheerly on a contingency basis (ref

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