Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/10/09MANILA2218.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2218
2009-10-22 08:48
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002218

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PINS KJUS KCRM RP
SUBJECT: FORMER PRESIDENT ESTRADA ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL RUN

REF: A. MANILA 1967 (SENATOR BLASTS ESTRADA)
¶B. 07 MANILA 3520 (ARROYO PARDONS ESTRADA)
¶C. 07 MANILA 3086 (ESTRADA CONVICTED)

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

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) Former President Joseph Estrada announced on October
21 his intention to run for President in 2010, with Makati
Mayor Jejomar Binay as his running mate. Estrada, forced out
of the presidential palace by a 2001 uprising, remains
popular with a meaningfully large segment of the electorate
despite well-known personal vices, a prior conviction for
plunder, and widespread suspicion of culpability in a double
murder now under investigation. An Estrada victory — which
we currently view as highly unlikely — could complicate
U.S.-Philippine relations, given the former President’s
connection to an American convicted of espionage. Most
politically astute Filipinos believe the Supreme Court will
eliminate Estrada from the race on constitutional grounds.
Nevertheless, Estrada’s maneuvering could affect the tone of
the election campaign and position him to provide another
candidate with a significant endorsement. Estrada has spoken
out twice in recent days, calling for a more aggressive
approach toward ending insurgencies. End Summary.

ESTRADA DECLARES HIS CANDIDACY
——————————

¶2. (U) On October 21, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada
declared his candidacy for the 2010 presidential election.
Makati Mayor Jejomar “Jojo” Binay will serve as Estrada’s
running mate on a ticket backed by the Force of the
Philippine Masses Party (PMP — formerly the Party of the
Philippine Masses). He also named a full slate of Senatorial
candidates who will run under his party, including Senate
president Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Miriam
Defensor Santiago and Aquilino Pimenetel, Rep. Ferdinand
Marcos Jr., arrested rebel leader Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and
ZTE scandal whistleblower Jose De Venecia III. Formal
registration of candidacies will take place in late November.

¶3. (SBU) Estrada, who rose to prominence as an actor, remains
appealing to many Filipinos. Support for Estrada is
strongest among the poorer and less-educated segments of the
population. (He formally announced his candidacy — “the
last performance of my life” — in Tondo, his birthplace and
one of the poorest neighborhoods in Manila.) Credible
polling organization Social Weather Stations has found that
Estrada consistently ranks among the top tier of candidates.
Most recently, when asked which person(s) they believed would
be a suitable successor to President Arroyo, 18 percent of
surveyed Filipinos included Estrada’s name in their response,
giving him a higher ranking than other contenders except for
Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III (60 percent) and Senator
Manuel Villar (37 percent). At this stage, Aquino and Villar
are widely viewed as the front-runners.

¶4. (SBU) In the run-up to his announcement, Estrada placed
multi-page ads in leading Manila newspapers that previewed
his October 21 announcement. “True to the poor,” the ads
read, proclaiming it time to return power to the masses. The
ads focused largely on the unconventional way in which
Estrada was forced out of office in 2001, midway through his
term, after the President’s allies blocked impeachment
proceedings and triggered an outburst of popular and elite
outrage that brought his vice president, Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, to power. In his October 21 remarks,
Estrada raised his 2001 ouster, complaining he had been
“demonized then unconstitutionally removed.”

HAWKISH ON INSURGENCY, DOVISH ON GAMBLING
—————————————–

¶5. (SBU) In October 20 public remarks, Estrada called for an
“all-out war against insurgencies,” using language similar to
that he had employed as President, when he gave primacy to
military means against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF), winning some battles but failing to achieve peace.
When announcing his candidacy, Estrada again referred to the
situation in the South, saying that the Arroyo administration
“almost gave it up” when negotiating a subsequently aborted
peace accord last year. MILF spokespersons on October 21

MANILA 00002218 002 OF 003

denigrated both Estrada and his policies.

¶6. (SBU) Estrada also called for the legalization of jueteng,
an illegal gambling game that targets poorer Filipinos.
Estrada’s involvement in jueteng was one of the contributing
factors in his plunder conviction.

A QUESTIONABLE CANDIDACY
————————

¶6. (C) Our contacts generally agree that Estrada will prove
unable to run in the 2010 election. Article VII, Section 4
of the Constitution reads: “The President shall not be
eligible for any reelection.” While Estrada advocates have
sought to argue that this prohibition is open to
interpretation, constitutional experts claim publicly that
the drafters’ intent was clear, and the language bars Estrada
from again assuming the presidency. Senator Jinggoy Estrada,
son of the former President, has told us recently that he
expects that his father’s opponents will challenge Erap’s
candidacy, and that the Supreme Court will disqualify the
former President.

¶7. (C) Most in Manila’s elite circles dread any prospect of
Estrada’s return to the presidential palace. Stories of
Estrada’s debauchery, corruption, and mismanagement abounded
during his presidency. Widely thought of as a womanizer,
gambler, and alcoholic, Estrada was convicted by the
Philippine anti-graft court of plunder, based on charges that
he received payoffs from illegal gambling operations,
diverted excise taxes to his personal accounts, and profited
from stock manipulation (ref B). Six weeks after his
conviction, however, President Macapagal-Arroyo pardoned
Estrada (ref C).

¶8. (SBU) Estrada’s legal woes continue. In September,
Senator (and former National Police Chief) Panfilo “Ping”
Lacson insinuated in public remarks (ref A) that Estrada
conspired in the 2000 murder of Estrada associate Salvador
Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito. Two former police
officers testifying in the case recently claimed in court
proceedings that Lacson and Estrada were complicit in the
killings, and Dacer family members are reportedly preparing
to file a formal complaint against the ex-President in
connection with the murders.

ESPIONAGE
———

¶9. (C) A second Estrada presidential term also could pose a
special challenge for U.S.-Philippine relations. Credible
international news organizations have reported that Estrada
(along with Lacson) received classified U.S. material from
former FBI analyst Leandro Aragoncillo, who pleaded guilty to
U.S. espionage charges in 2006. Although we are not aware of
official records in the public domain that establish Estrada
conspired to commit espionage against the U.S., we do believe
he was a principal recipient of Aragoncillo’s material. As
far as we have been able to determine, there is no U.S.
indictment against Estrada, nor any continuing espionage
investigation.

COMMENT
——-

¶10. (C) While the decade since his ouster as president have
not worn well on the 72-year-old Estrada, he spoke forcefully
and with conviction in his Tondo appearance. Many of
Estrada’s critics believe his primary motivation in running
for office is to prove he still commands popular support,
thereby providing him a form of redemption from what he
firmly believes was an illegal ouster and conviction. A
second motivation is to reestablish himself as a political
player in order to gain resources or influence when he
provides another candidate with an endorsement after his own
disqualification. Nonetheless, Estrada seems determined to
press his candidacy as far as he can, even in the face of a
certain Supreme Court challenge from his political opponents
— a legal fight which even his son believes he cannot win.
End Comment.

BIO NOTES
———

¶11. (U) Joseph “Erap” Estrada, born in 1937, studied at the

MANILA 00002218 003 OF 003

Mapua Institute of College but ended his studies before
earning a degree. He rose to prominence as an award-winning
actor and film producer. He served as Mayor of San Juan City
(in the greater Manila area) from 1969 until 1986. In 1987,
he won election to the Senate, and then, in 1992, became Vice
President in the Fidel Ramos administration, concurrently
heading the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission. He was
elected as President in 1998 and served approximately half
his six-year term before being pushed out of office by a
popular uprising. He and his wife have three children, one
of whom holds a seat in the Senate; Estrada also has publicly
admitted fathering children of women other than his wife.

¶12. (U) Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, born in 1942, served as Mayor
of Makati (the most significant business district of the
greater Manila area) for three consecutive terms, from 1988
until 1998. Term limits prohibited his reelection directly
after his third term, so his wife held the mayoralty from
1998 until 2001, when Binay began his second string of terms
in office. Trained as a lawyer, he holds an undergraduate
degree from the University of the Philippines and master’s
degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and from the
National Defense College of the Philippines. He has attended
Harvard University in a Fellow Program. He and his wife have
five children, two of whom hold elected office.
KENNEY

   

 

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