Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/08/09MANILA1663.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1663
2009-08-06 11:12
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6128
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DE RUEHML #1663/01 2181112
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061112Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4831
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001663

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR RP
SUBJECT: EMOTIONAL FAREWELL TO PRESIDENT CORY

REF: MANILA 1618 (“ICON OF DEMOCRACY” PRESIDENT CORY
AQUINO PASSES AWAY)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The August 5 funeral of former President
Corazon Aquino brought the Philippine nation together in an
outpouring of affection and respect, a moment unprecedented
in recent memory. Much as Cory Aquino united Filipinos
during the 1986 uprising against dictator Ferdinand Marcos,
she also seemed to unite them in her death August 1 from
cancer. Citizens from all walks of life flocked to her wake
and funeral at Manila Cathedral, from the nation’s elite
clans and competing political parties to middle class and
ordinary Filipinos. The children of Ferdinand Marcos, among
other political rivals of the Aquino family, offered their
condolences. Having shunned the Philippine government’s
offer for a formal state funeral, the Aquino family organized
a moving two-hour requiem mass, and broadcast it nationwide.
Eulogies by the Aquino family’s priest and other key figures,
as well as an unusually frank and campaign-like eulogy by the
youngest Aquino sibling, actress Kris Aquino, illustrated the
intense admiration that friends and family had for “President
Cory.” Notably absent — and uninvited — from the funeral
was President Arroyo, who paid her respects privately in the
early morning hours after returning from her U.S. trip ahead
of schedule. Attending the funeral for the U.S. government,
the Ambassador noted that the funeral ended not with sadness,
but with an air of celebration. Funeral onlookers chanted
“Cory” as the casket left the cathedral to join the cortege
for the eight-hour journey to the cemetery, as throngs of
Filipinos lined Manila’s typhoon-flooded streets to pay their
final respects and catch one last glimpse of their beloved
president. END SUMMARY.

FUNERAL UNITES COUNTRY AND BITTER ENEMIES
—————————————–

¶2. (C) The gracious and star-studded August 5 funeral for
former President Corazon Aquino capped four days of national
mourning following her August 1 death from cancer, uniting
the country in a wave of emotion unprecedented in recent
years and, for many, unimaginable under any other
circumstance. Having shunned the Philippine government’s
offer for a formal state funeral, the Aquino family
nonetheless managed to bring together elites from competing
clans and political parties, Manila’s top celebrities, and
ordinary Filipinos — dressed in shorts and sandals — to the
two-hour long requiem, which was broadcast nationwide. The
well-organized and beautifully executed mass at Manila
Cathedral saw political rivals sitting in unlikely proximity,
offering condolences to Aquino’s survivors in between musical
numbers by some of the Philippines’ most celebrated talent.
Former presidents Joseph Estrada and Fidel Ramos were
present, as was Vice President Noli de Castro, seated in
front of his bitter rival, Senator Loren Legarda, who will
compete for the presidency in May 2010 elections against
Senator Manuel Roxas II, also present at the funeral.
Members of Congress joined Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo,
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, other Malacanang Palace
staff, rows of business leaders, and many members from the
Cojuangco/Aquino clan — a reminder of how large and
well-connected the combined family is. Following the Aquino
family’s decision to hold a private funeral mass in lieu of
an official state funeral, Ambassador Kenney represented the
United States. Most countries participated at the
ambassadorial level, with the exception of East Timor and
Indonesia, which sent their president and foreign minister,
respectively.

¶3. (C) The August 4 second wake that preceded the funeral
offered more conspicuous personalities a quieter opportunity
to pay their respects to the Aquino family without
aggravating family rivalries. Ilocos Norte Representative
Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and his sister Aimee Marcos, two
children of the late dictator and former president Ferdinand
Marcos and his wife Imelda, attended the August 4 services,
setting aside for the moment their long-standing family feud
with the Aquino clan, which continues to believe that Marcos
ordered the 1983 assassination of Ninoy Aquino. Other former
Aquino opponents expressed their condolences through the
media. Retired commodore Rex Robles told reporters he was
remorseful over his participation in the series of coup
attempts against President Aquino from 1987 to 1989.
Acknowledging Cory Aquino’s compassion, Robles admitted
wavering at one time, certain that if Aquino extended her
hand to them, he and his cohorts would readily surrender.
Cory, he said, was well-mannered and sincere; her “aura was

MANILA 00001663 002 OF 003

her armor.”

EULOGY AS POLITICAL PLATFORM
—————————-

¶4. (SBU) Eulogies at the mass remembered and celebrated
President Aquino’s accomplishments and character. In the
most surprising remarks, a tearful Kris Aquino, the youngest
of Aquino’s children, claimed in her speech to be her
“mother’s favorite” because she, of all her siblings, was
most like her father. Effusive with thanks for the public’s
“respect, appreciation and love,” Kris pledged to continue
her parents’ crusade for democracy and better governance
alongside her older brother, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino
III, whose career she promised to support. The remarks drew
applause from the audience, an indication of some support for
Kris’ possible foray into politics and away from her
successful television career, a path often tread in
Philippine politics. Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, an Arroyo
opponent and Aquino ally who was active in the anti-Marcos
movement, threatened a “political upheaval” against Arroyo
should she stay in office beyond 2010. Malacanang Palace
officials criticized Binay for using Cory’s death to
encourage anti-Arroyo sentiment, and expressed hope that the
occasion would instead be a moment for national
reconciliation.

¶5. (SBU) Aquino family priest Father Catalino Arevalo, whom
Aquino had hand-picked to deliver the homily at her final
mass, highlighted to great applause three of Aquino’s traits
which endeared her to the Filipino people: selflessness in
loving country above family, deep faith in God, and courage.
He described Cory as a “true queen” who “truly held our
hearts in the gentleness and greatness of her own.” Bataan
Bishop Socrates Villegas, a friend of the late Manila
Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who himself was Cory’s ardent
supporter and one of the key players in the EDSA I “People
Power” revolt, also delivered a moving address. He described
Cory as a “woman born to wealth and plenty,” but who chose to
live “in simplicity and humbly carried our misery.” “We will
never meet a woman as great as (Cory) for a very long time.”
Although reluctant to bid farewell, he expressed happiness at
the thought of Cory reunited in heaven with her late husband,
Ninoy. In his remarks, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal
Rosales hoped that the country’s next president would have
the qualities of both Cory and Ninoy.

PRESIDENT ARROYO’S ABSENCE
————————–

¶6. (SBU) President Arroyo, who was not invited to the
funeral by the Aquino children, paid her respects separately
in the early morning hours August 5 after returning ahead of
schedule from a U.S. trip that included a meeting with
President Obama. Arroyo and Aquino, having been at odds over
differing political views and Arroyo land-reform measures
that affected Aquino family holdings, did not reconcile
before Aquino’s death. Reports noted that the Aquino family
was angered by the Arroyo government’s decision to withdraw
two security details during Aquino’s last days, prompting the
Aquinos to decide against a state funeral. While the funeral
was officially private, it maintained strong public
character, supported by President Arroyo’s proclamation of
ten days of national mourning and the lowering of flags to
half-staff. As an additional sign of her respect, Arroyo led
a separate mass for Aquino on August 5 at Malacanang Palace.

PRIVATE FUNERAL, PUBLIC SALUTE
——————————

¶7. (U) Recalling the political activism that President
Aquino was able to ignite in her supporters, funeral
onlookers in the rear of the cathedral, mostly ordinary
Filipinos, chanted “Co-ry!” as the casket left the cathedral
to be loaded onto a flower-covered flatbed truck to lead the
cortege. Throngs of Filipinos braved torrential rains and
lined the flooded streets of Manila’s modest neighborhoods to
pay their final respects and catch one last glimpse of their
beloved president on her 20-kilometer journey to Manila
Memorial Park cemetery. The televised funeral and procession
lasted 10 hours altogether and was graced by full military
honors of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including a
21-gun salute. Funeral organizers estimated the huge but
courteous crowd inside the cemetery reached 30,000 people.
Before and during the funeral, Filipinos honored the memory
of Aquino by signing the letter “L” with their hands — for
“laban” (fight) — and in wearing yellow, a color that became
Cory’s hallmark symbol of resistance against Marcos and of

MANILA 00001663 003 OF 003

her presidency.

COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) As demonstrated by the tremendous outpouring of
emotion these last few days, the courageous spirit of Cory
Aquino, ingrained in the public psyche, appears ready to
outlast the life of the woman herself. The Aquino funeral
brought the nation together in a rare outburst of affection
and respect. Sworn political enemies shared pews with each
other at the funeral; military officers who sought to
overthrow the Aquino government even offered their respects.
President Arroyo’s opponents, like Makati Mayor Binay, likely
hoped the funeral would reinvigorate and unify the
opposition, but the throngs were clearly intent on honoring
President Cory, not reenacting the EDSA revolt. The funeral
was, nonetheless, a very political event and an unusual
demonstration of the power of the Philippines’ various
political clans. Many members of the funeral audience saw in
Kris Aquino’s remarks an indication that she would likely
enter the political arena. The exception to the ephemeral
amity between families was the cool reception offered
President Arroyo; while she was treated civilly, her decision
not to attend the funeral illustrated the continuing
animosity between the Aquinos and Arroyos — and, in a more
general sense, the rancor that exists among the Philippines’
powerful political clans. While powerful clans dropped their
fists for a short moment out of respect for a much-beloved
president, it is clear that the families remain prepared to
defend and promote their interests as they head toward the
2010 national elections.

KENNEY

   

 

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