Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/05/06MANILA2199.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA2199 2006-05-26 08:10 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO8706
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2199/01 1460810
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 260810Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1159
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002199

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS PHUM PTER RP
SUBJECT: FIVE ESTRADA SUPPORTERS ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF REBELLION

REF: MANILA 2193

¶1. (SBU) Summary: On May 22, Philippine military and police
forces arrested five supporters of former President Joseph
Estrada, charging them with rebellion and accusing the group
of plotting to assassinate four members of President Arroyo’s
Cabinet. Due to a lack of evidence, the men were later
released, though charges are still pending and a preliminary
hearing is set for early June. In response, the Senate is
stalling important defense budget legislation while it
pursues an inquiry, and opposition figures and the Philippine
Commission on Human Rights have expressed concern. End
Summary.

—————–
Catch and Release
—————–

¶2. (U) On May 22, Philippine military and police forces
arrested five supporters of former President Joseph Estrada,
charging them with rebellion and accusing the group of
plotting to assassinate four members of the Arroyo Cabinet.
The men — nicknamed the “Erap 5” — were taken from the
Metro Manila home of Virgilio Eustaquio — a leader of
Estrada’s Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice party
— where they were holding a meeting. Initially, the men
were thought to have been abducted after the government
repeatedly denied any involvement in their disappearance. On
May 24, the government admitted it was holding the five, but
released the group the next day after Justice Secretary Raul
Gonzalez cited a lack of sufficient evidence to detain them.
Nonetheless, the charges are still pending and a preliminary
hearing has been set for June 6.

¶3. (U) Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman
Colonel Tristan Kison has said government agents were
initially after only one man — Ruben Dionisio, allegedly a
New People’s Army (NPA) member — but decided to arrest the
four others as well. The AFP claims the arrests were the
result of a tip given by another alleged NPA member, Delfin
de Guzman, who was detained by the government on May 11
(reftel). Presidential Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye has
defended the arrests, stating that it was a “preemptive move”
to defend the allegedly targeted Cabinet members and that if
the accused are innocent, “they can prove their innocence in
court.” Media reports have identified the four targets as
Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor, National Security
Advisor Norberto Gonzales, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez,
and Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.

——–
Reaction
——–

¶4. (U) In response, the Philippine Senate has deferred
approval of this year’s P47.5 billion defense budget, pending
investigation into the arrests. Opposition Senator Panfilo
Lacson has said the Senate will schedule a May 29 hearing to
question military leaders, saying that a full explanation of
the arrests is warranted prior to budget approval. Former
President Estrada has condemned the, “patently criminal
abduction” of his supporters and dismissed government claims
of Dionisio’s links to the NPA. Philippine Commission on
Human Rights Commissioner Wilhelm Soriano also voiced concern
over the arrests, stating, “the manner in which it was done”
was not consistent with due process of the law.

¶5. (U) Dionisio — the government’s main target — has
accused the arresting soldiers and police officers of
torture, claiming he had been beaten and subject to electric
shocks for several hours. On May 23, Dionisio showed
television news reporters bruises and bites – allegedly by
fire ants — that he asserted were inflicted upon him after
his arrest. Media reports say Dionisio and the other men are
expected to file complaints against their arresting officers.

——–
Comment
——-

¶6. (SBU) The arrest of the “Erap 5” has been widely covered
by the Philippine media and has given Congressional
opposition members cause to delay important defense budget
legislation. The Arroyo Administration continues to defend
its position that the arrests were justified, and is moving
forward on a preliminary investigation. The alleged
violations of human rights against Dionisio, if true, would

MANILA 00002199 002 OF 002

be troubling and may provoke a backlash against the Arroyo
government. Mission will continue to monitor the accusations
of torture.
Kenney

   

 

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