Sep 152014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1614 2005-04-07 07:26 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001614


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015

REF: A. STATE 60794
¶B. JAKARTA 4212
¶C. 04 MANILA 5502

Classified By: Charge d’affaires Joseph A. Mussomeli,
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (S) Summary. Terrorism is a disturbingly ordinary,
ongoing reality here. The southern Philippines lies along a
strategic fault line in the global campaign against
terrorism, with its porous borders, weak rule of law,
long-standing and unaddressed grievances of Muslim
minorities, and high levels of poverty and corruption
offering a fertile field for nurturing terrorist groups.
Only Afghanistan in the Nineties had a mix of elements more
conducive to the spread of radical Islamic movements and the
safeguarding of terrorists. Through its own efforts, the GRP
has had some successes, but has fallen woefully short in many
areas. Similarly, a variety of USG programs, ranging from
military to humanitarian to public diplomacy, are making a
contribution and will be essential toward further progress in
winning the GWOT here, but even more resources and more
energetic attention will be needed. A key missing link so
far has been a serious revamp of one of the key players —
the Philippine National Police (ref c) — that needs the same
kind of institutional rethink and reform that we are now
achieving with the Philippine Defense Reform. Action
requests in para 14. End Summary.

The Threat is Real Here

¶2. (S) Terrorism is arguably more dangerous in the long-term
in the Philippines than anywhere in East Asia. Four groups
on the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list operate here —
the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Pentagon
Gang, and Jemaah Islamiyah. While the NPA is responsible for
regular attacks on and killings of Philippine security forces
and civilian officials, it is not now focused on confronting
the United States. No US citizens have been harmed by the
NPA since the early 1990s. This is not the case with the
Islamic terrorists groups. ASG elements, trained by the JI,
were responsible for Asia’s second most deadly terrorist
attack — the Superferry bombing in February 2004 — as well
as for deadly bombings in three cities (including Manila) in
February 2005. There are clear indications of ongoing JI/ASG
planning for attacks on US citizens, as well as possibly on
the US Embassy, in addition to further attacks on Filipinos
and other foreigners. Even more disturbingly, despite an
eighteen-month cease-fire and ongoing peace talks with the
GRP, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) (which is not
now on the FTO list, although Embassy has recommended
designation of at least certain MILF commanders due to their
clear, and perhaps growing, links with the JI) remains a
credible military threat, at least in Mindanao. Elements of
the Misuari Breakaway Group of the Moro National Liberation
Front (MNLF), with which the GRP signed a peace agreement in
1996, engaged in a new deadly round of fighting on Jolo
Island in February 2005.

Some Successes, But…

¶3. (S) We are actively engaged with the GRP to combat
terrorist threats here, primarily from the ASG and JI. Our
vigorous military exercise programs have heightened the
capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to
conduct some limited offensive operations, while our
intelligence components, in conjunction with our military,
provide guidance and relevant intelligence to the AFP in
planning its attacks on terrorist elements, such as
repeatedly identifying the location of key wanted terrorists
(Khaddafy Janjalani, Dulmatin). Unfortunately, subsequent
AFP bombing operations were glaringly unsuccessful in leading
to their capture or deaths.

¶4. (S) The GRP has also made some arrests, including some
individuals responsible for the Valentine’s Day bombings and
the Superferry bombing, as well as individuals plotting
against the US Embassy and some implicated in the Palawan
kidnapping of three American citizens (and subsequent
beheading of one) in 2000. Trials are ongoing, but are
typically slow.

…Key Institutions Are Broken

¶5. (S) The bottom line we and the GRP face in confronting
terrorism is that major institutions of the Philippines
involved in the GWOT — notably, the AFP, the Philippine
National Police (PNP), the prosecutors, and the judiciary —
are riddled with corruption, are poorly equipped and
under-budgeted, have ineffective management systems, and are
often under weak leadership. Our training of the military
and police is helping, as are several USAID programs, but
without profound institutional fixes, there will be no
enduring improvements in anti-terrorism capabilities.

What’s Working and Still Needed

¶6. (SBU) PDR: The most effective long-term GWOT-related
program in which we are already engaged is the Philippine
Defense Reform (PDR) initiative, which is undertaking the
overarching reform programs that will transform the AFP into
a more modern, professional, transparent, and accountable
institution. The Department of National Defense has already
invested $17.45 million in this program and is committed to
further investments of $36.6 million in 2005, with expected
funding to remain at this level in the decade ahead. USDOD
has budgeted $11.1 million for PDR in FY05, with a
significant portion of the requested $20 million in FY06
funds also dedicated to PDR. We count on the continued
funding by the USG to keep pace with the GRP’s own ambitious

¶7. (SBU) Military: Foreign Military Financing (FMF), used to
train or equip the three light reaction companies that form
the core of the GRP,s Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG),
six Light Infantry Battalions (LIB) and 12 Naval Special
Warfare teams (NAVSOF), remains a valuable tool to tip the
balance in favor of the AFP in Mindanao. The “Basilan Model”
developed by JTF-510 has achieved significant success by
combining humanitarian assistance and civil-military
operations with efforts to upgrade AFP combat capabilities;
PACOM is examining replication of this model throughout the
southern Philippines.

¶8. (U) Civilian: USAID’s programs in Mindanao have begun to
transform this conflict zone. The “Livelihood Enhancement
and Peace” (LEAP) program has already provided livelihood to
over 25,000 former MNLF combatants and provides a
“demonstration effect” for MILF combatants if and when the
GRP and MILF sign a peace accord. Public diplomacy programs
have helped carry this message, notably through broadcast and
distribution of a documentary on LEAP called “Arms to

What’s Not Working as Well as It Should

¶9. (S) DS’ Rewards for Justice program has made an impact
(we have paid out $1 million to three individuals). However,
the process is time-consuming, given its case-by-case nature
and the Washington decision-making process. It would be
helpful if, similar to USDOD’s Rewards program, we had a
pre-approved list of individuals whose capture we could
reward almost immediately. It would also be helpful to have
an in-country operational budget to publicize the program, as
the USDOD rewards program has.

¶10. (SBU) ICITAP training programs for the PNP have come
virtually to a halt following the departure of the resident
program manager in December. ICITAP has now taken steps —
willingness to sign up to ICASS and submission of an NSDD-38
position request — but we have not been able to obtain
confirmation from INL of the current (still from FY2004
funds) allocation of funds to ICITAP. INL funding should be
flexible and timely, and we need more responsiveness from INL

What’s Not Working at All

¶11. (C) The PISCES program is irremediably broken. Plagued
by software glitches from its inception, and incompatible
with any other USG border management system or technology.
We should either develop an export version of the existing
Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and
Customs Enforcement/Customs and Border Protection
(DHS/ICE/CBP) system, or let the EU border management
initiative take the lead.

¶12. (S) The role of the Saudis — whether with funding from
private or public sources or, more egregiously, in direct
interference from the Saudi Ambassador to get suspected
terrorists with Saudi passports released from custody and
permitted to depart — remains ambiguous. We see no
improvement in Saudi efforts to curtail funding to Islamic
groups in the Philippines. We need to impress on the Saudi
government the importance of information-sharing with other
governments in the region.

¶13. (C) The role of the United States Institute of Peace
(USIP) in facilitating the GRP/MILF peace process has been a
distinct disappointment, despite its work on ancestral
domain. The Malaysians appear adamant against a role for
USIP in or on the margins of the negotiations themselves,
even as an observer.

What’s Additionally Needed — Now

¶14. (S) Action request: Embassy seeks support for — and
will continue consultation in more depth on — the following
new programs:
— funding for a comprehensive “Management Assessment of the
Philippine Police” (ref c);
— development of a fusion model involving RMAS, other
relevant Embassy offices, and concerned USG elements to
provide embedded USG analysts at a single GRP counterpart
agency, to be selected from among the current proliferation
of GRP Task Forces and Centers;
— USG assistance to redress inefficiencies in the
Philippine judicial system that make prosecution of terrorist
suspects at best a long-term struggle;
— technical assistance to develop high-security jail
facilities for holding terrorists suspects, some of whom
have, notoriously, escaped Philippine prisons;
— an expanded ATA assistance program focused on the
Philippines’ Anti-terrorism Task Force (ATTF) under
Malacanang Palace (the President’s Office).



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