Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/11/09MANILA2428.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2428
2009-11-20 08:25
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5844
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002428

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2019
TAGS: PGOV KDEM RP
SUBJECT: ELECTION UPDATE: KEY TICKETS TAKE SHAPE, AQUINO LEADS POLLS

REF: A. MANILA 2408 (DEFENSE SECRETARY RESIGNS)
¶B. MANILA 2218 (ERAP DECLARES)
¶C. MANILA 1901 (NOYNOY DECLARES)

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

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) With a November 30 filing deadline for candidates
approaching, the Philippine election race has shifted into
higher gear. Presidential contenders Manuel Villar and
Gilberto Teodoro announced their vice presidential running
mates, as Senator Benigno Aquino III retained a commanding
lead in opinion polls. Increasing numbers of Arroyo Cabinet
members began to leave their positions to begin active
campaigning. The transience of Philippine political loyalty
was again evident, as presidential candidates lured a
hodgepodge of popular Senate candidates to their party
banners — no matter what the aspirants’ political stripes.
Congressional, gubernatorial and mayoral candidates have also
begun calculating which presidential hopeful’s coattails will
most surely carry them into office. Defections from the
ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party indicate President Arroyo’s
stalwarts are uneasy about the odds for her anointed
candidate, Teodoro, and are shopping for a better bet. Former
President Joseph Estrada continues to insist he is a
legitimate contender; formal registration of his candidacy
will likely prompt a quick legal challenge. End Summary.

FINALIZING PLANS
—————-

¶2. (C) The Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) began
accepting formal filing of candidacy papers November 20; the
relatively brief window for registration closes November 30.
The looming registration deadline period has forced
politicians to finalize their plans for the coming elections.
Notable developments included:

– Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar, the Nacionalista Party’s
presidential candidate, announced on November 17 that
Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Senator Loren Legarda
would be his running mate. This pairing gives Villar a
high-profile running mate (previously seen as a potential
strong presidential candidate) who has the popularity of a
former television personality while also having engaged as a
Senator on climate change, women’s rights, and other issues.

– Former Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro, the
presidential candidate from the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party,
announced on November 13 that former actor Eduardo “Edu”
Manzano would be his running mate. This selection followed
the withdrawal of Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno from the
competition for the second spot on the Lakas-Kampi-CMD
ticket. Teodoro, who remains near the bottom of opinion
polls, likely hoped that Manzano’s selection would help
energize the public and provide additional charisma; Manzano
has government experience, having served as Vice Mayor of
Makati City from 1998-2001 and chaired the Optical Media
Board from 2004-2009, but his selection surprised many
political observers.

– Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero resigned from the
Nationalist People’s Coalition, surprising the many who
expected he would be the NPC’s presidential candidate.
Escudero announced his decision on October 28, delivering a
broad swipe against all political parties, saying that they
impose improper obligations on their candidates and restrict
politicians’ abilities to serve all people equally.
(Comment: Escudero reportedly was unable to secure sufficient
financing for his presidential run; his condemnation of
political parties likely was his way of framing a pragmatic
withdrawal from the race as a principled move. End Comment.)

¶3. (SBU) The Villar- and Teodoro-led tickets will compete
primarily against the Liberal Party contenders, Senator
Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas
II, as well as the Force of the Philippine Masses party’s duo
of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Makati Mayor
Jejomar Binay. We expect legal challenges to Estrada’s
candidacy as soon as he registers with COMELEC — one
politically active lawyer filed a petition in late October,
seeking a preemptive COMELEC disqualification of Estrada, but
the COMELEC quickly dismissed that request as premature,
since Estrada had not yet filed his certificate of candidacy.

MANILA 00002428 002 OF 003

(Ref B provides more background on the controversies
surrounding Estrada’s candidacy.)

STRONG AQUINO POLL LEAD
———————–

¶4. (SBU) Recent opinion polls placed Aquino far ahead of the
rest of the pack, with Villar clearly in second place.
Sampling 1,800 Filipinos in late October, Pulse Asia found
the following preferences (some results omitted):

Aquino……….. 44%
Villar……….. 19%
Escudero……… 13%
Estrada………. 11%
Teodoro………. 2%

Pulse Asia’s findings tracked roughly with findings one month
earlier by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) polling
organization. SWS’s poll did not restrict voters to
expressing support for only one candidate, but it also found
Aquino held a commanding lead, followed by Villar, with
Teodoro near the bottom.

DEFECTIONS FROM THE RULING PARTY
——————————–

¶5. (SBU) As the main presidential tickets firmed up,
candidates at every level — national, provincial, local —
began their routine pre-election migration toward the
presidential candidate they calculate had the best chance of
succeeding in the May 10 poll. Unlike in the U.S., where
longstanding political parties have clearly enunciated
platforms laying out key policies, Philippine politics is
largely personality-driven, with supporters coalescing around
the most powerful political figure in order to benefit from
political and budgetary largesse throughout a President’s
tenure.

¶6. (C) So far, the migration seems to be benefiting the
Liberal Party based on the high poll numbers for Noynoy
Aquino. Senator Villar’s consistently solid performance also
appears to be rallying candidates to his Nacionalista banner.
The main loser so far in the political reshuffling appears to
be the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD, based on Gilberto Teodoro’s
miserable poll numbers. Recent high-profile defections
included Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto and her husband
(a former Senator), as well as Quezon City Mayor Feliciano
Belmonte and others, who moved to the Liberal Party. A
leading Lakas-Kampi-CMD official in Mindanao estimated
publicly on November 18 that 30-40% of the party’s officials
had defected — most going to Aquino’s or Villar’s camp —
although ruling party loyalists sought to downplay the impact.

HEADING FOR THE EXITS
———————

¶7. (C) Increasing numbers of Arroyo Cabinet Secretaries
resigned or announced their intention to leave office to
pursue their political plans. Gilberto Teodoro resigned as
Secretary of National Defense November 16, turning the reins
over to National Security Advisor Norberto Gonzalez, whose
past unpredictable policy pronouncements have bewildered
Embassy and Philippine government officials alike (ref A).
Similarly, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, a key Arroyo
advisor, announced plans to leave his post by the end of
November. Press reports indicated that Palace Executive
Secretary Eduardo Ermita planned to run for Congress as well.
If true, his departure would deprive President Arroyo of her
right-hand man, with responsibility for all her major
security and foreign policy initiatives, including
counterterrorism and the Millenium Challenge Corporation
compact effort.

COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) The election campaign so far remains almost purely a
popularity contest, as no candidate has begun to elucidate a
coherent policy platform, and serious discussion of the many
challenges facing the Philippines — terrorism, insurgency,
poverty, grossly inadequate economic and social
infrastructure — has been the exception. Noynoy Aquino’s
lead in the polls still appears based primarily on positive
voter sentiment toward his deceased parents, which was the
principal factor enabling him to secure the Liberal Party’s

MANILA 00002428 003 OF 003

presidential nomination (ref C). Aquino’s ability to keep
attention focused on his heritage is important, not least
because the recent growth in his Liberal Party’s followers
has brought in an array of politically incompatible
supporters, for whom the common thread is his parents’
legacy. Aquino may also benefit from a virtuous cycle in
which high poll ratings prompt defections and campaign
contributions, which generate more excitement and a sense of
inevitability, sustaining his standing in the polls. But the
Liberals face a tough battle against two well funded
campaigns. Senator Villar has made it clear he will use his
large personal fortune to further his ambitions, and Gilberto
Teodoro still has the formidable budget and campaign
resources of the ruling party at his disposal.
KENNEY

   

 

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