Oct 232014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-09-19 09:15
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.




E.O. 12958: N/A


¶1. (U) This message is Sensitive But Unclassified. Please
handle accordingly.

¶2. (SBU) Summary: The announcement of the arrest of a
former Philippine police official and an FBI employee on
espionage charges in the U.S. has generated mixed reaction in
the Philippines. Several national politicians have admitted
in media reports to receiving information from one or both
men charged with the crime, while denying any wrongdoing.
President Arroyo has said the case is a matter of U.S. law
and not a matter for the GRP. One newspaper has recently
published articles containing information it says is culled
from U.S. documents. Several political commentators have
used the case to accuse the U.S. of “spying” on the
Philippines, though President Arroyo has dismissed these
claims. End Summary.

U.S. Case Gets Headlines

¶3. (U) Since September 13 when the story broke in the
Philippines, the case involving allegations of espionage
against Leandro Aragoncillo, an employee of the FBI, and
Michael Ray Aquino, a former Philippine National Police (PNP)
official, has received significant daily coverage in all
local major media outlets. (Note: Aragoncillo and Aquino
were arrested in the U.S on September 10; their arrests were
announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey on
September 12. End Note.) The press has made a point of
identifying Aragoncillo as a Filipino-American who was
educated in the Philippines; of noting that Aquino fled the
Philippines after being charged with murder; and of linking
Aquino to his former boss, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a
leading member of the opposition and failed 2004 presidential
candidate. (Note: Aquino and Lacson have a long-standing
relationship; Aquino served as an immediate subordinate to
Lacson in various high-level police positions from 1992-2000.
End Note.)

Politicians Discuss Case

¶4. (U) Several well-known politicians have been cited in the
press discussing the case. Senator Lacson, for example, told
local media on September 13 that he had received information
from Aquino. On September 15, former president Joseph
Estrada, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and
Paranaque Representative Roilo Golez told the Philippine
Daily Inquirer that they, too, had received email messages
from Arroyo and/or Aragoncillo. However, each of these
politicians claimed that he had received no sensitive or
classified documents. Lacson said in a September 13
interview that the information he received from Aquino simply
concerned developments in the Philippines that had been
reported in the media and other “gossip.”

GRP Reaction

¶5. (U) Presidential Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a
September 14 press briefing that the President was not
troubled by the US authorities’ arrest of Michael Ray Aquino.
Bunye stated that the Philippine Consulate in New York would
extend Aquino the usual assistance given to Filipino citizens
in similar situations, such as ensuring that his rights were
protected. President Arroyo, who was in New York attending
the 2005 World Summit of the UN General Assembly when the
story broke, stated on September 19 in a televised interview
that, because the case was a matter of U.S. law, she would
not intervene in any way and otherwise had no comment on it.

¶6. (SBU) Secretary of the Philippine Department of Justice
Raul Gonzalez at a September 14 press conference said the GRP
was “bound” by the U.S.-R.P. extradition treaty and would
readily turn over to the U.S. any Filipino public officials
implicated in the alleged espionage case. However, in a
September 15 interview, Gonzalez appeared to backtrack from
his earlier statement, saying the government would respect
the extradition treaty, but that any proceedings regarding
possible extradition(s) also needed to follow Philippine
laws. Gonzalez said it was premature to discuss the
legalities of the case since the FBI had not unsealed the
documents implicating Aquino and Aragoncillo in the espionage
case as of yet. He further argued that if the reports were
true that former President Joseph Estrada and Senator Panfilo
Lacson were among the public officials involved in the
espionage case, the USG may face additional complications in
trying to extradite them, as both enjoyed “certain levels of

¶7. (U) National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director
Reynaldo Wycoco told the press that his organization was
mandated to arrest and extradite whomever the FBI might
implicate in the case against Aquino. However, he noted that
the extradition process was a long one and no arrests would
be made unless proper legal procedures were followed. NBI
officials also asserted to the local press that the FBI had
sought its assistance in gathering additional evidence in the

Purported U.S. Documents Cited in Press

¶8. (SBU) A leading English-language newspaper, The
Philippine Daily Inquirer, claims to be in receipt of some of
the documents allegedly stolen by Aragoncillo and Aquino, and
has begun publishing purported excerpts. In its September 18
edition, it quoted at length from an alleged U.S. document
(of unspecified origin and possibly a compilation of several
other documents) written last April, expressing fears of a
coup in the Philippines. The next day, the paper quoted from
a second, similar alleged document, written in June, which
claimed that the situation in the Philippines had changed and
that a coup was unlikely. On September 20, a third article
quoted from a third alleged document, dated July 2005, that
also downplayed coup fears while continuing to express
concern over political instability in the Philippines.

Allegations of U.S. “Spying”

¶9. (SBU) Several politicians and others have taken the
allegations about the classified FBI reports as evidence that
the U.S. is “spying” on the Philippines. House Minority
Leader Francis Escudero told the press on September 15 that,
“We should be more concerned about what the governments of
other countries are doing to us, even if they’re our
friends.” Several left-wing groups also accused the U.S. of
spying. Carl Anthony, spokesman for the leftist group
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, asked rhetorically in a
September 15 interview, “What is the FBI doing with those
classified information (sic) in the first place? They have
no business with our internal affairs.”

¶10. (SBU) Charge responded to this criticism in an informal
interview on September 15, saying that confidential analyses
of a country’s political situation are “normal.” In her
televised interview on September 19, President Arroyo
dismissed claims that the U.S. was spying on the Philippines
as mere speculation.




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