Oct 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/08/08MANILA1997.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1997
2008-08-22 09:28
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6373
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1997/01 2350928
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 220928Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1669
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE 0754
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE 0363
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001997

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/19/2018
TAGS: PGOV EAID PINR PREL PHUM KISL RP
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT PURSUES NEW PEACE PROCESS STRATEGY

REF: A. MANILA 1962 (NEW CLASHES IN MINDANAO ARMY REACTS
QUICKLY BUT WITH RESTRAINT)
¶B. MANILA 1940 (ARMED FORCES CHIEF DISCUSSES
MINDANAO CLASHES)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY. Faced in the last few weeks with serious
legal and political challenges to its arduously negotiated
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on territory with the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front, the Arroyo government is moving
rapidly — albeit with some confusion — to cobble together a
more viable peace process with the Muslim insurgents. In
conversations with the Ambassador, Arroyo Administration
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Foreign Secretary Alberto
Romulo, and Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process
Hermogenes Esperon laid out the government’s hastily revised
strategy to salvage as much of the controversial Memorandum
of Agreement as possible and suppress rogue Muslim insurgent
forces without inciting a broader Christian-Muslim conflict
in Mindanao. The key elements of the new strategy include
reaching out quickly to a broad array of grassroots
communities and organizations to build the kind of support
that was lacking for the earlier peace deal. However, these
officials emphasized that while the new strategy represented
a significant shift in the conduct of negotiations, the
government was in no way abandoning the peace process. END
SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) Executive Secretary Ermita told Ambassador August 22
that the government was by no means giving up on the peace
process. Instead, the government planned to review the
current Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which is now in
litigation in the Supreme Court, to ensure that it complied
with legal and constitutional requirements. The MOA would
then be used as a starting point for further negotiations
with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Ermita
explained that the government would pursue a policy of
“Disarm, Disband, and Rehabilitate” as its end-game strategy
with the Muslim insurgents. Under this framework, Muslim
insurgents would be given an opportunity to give up their
arms, withdraw from their base commands, and join livelihood
programs, much as was done with Moro National Liberation
Front insurgents in a 1996 peace agreement. Ermita stressed
that giving up arms was not a precondition for negotiations,
but an outcome of reaching a peace agreement. Ermita noted
that the government was taking the MILF leadership at their
word that the MILF elements taking part in current fighting
against government forces were not under central control.
Nonetheless, Ermita noted that the government was proceeding
with drawing up arrest warrants for these rogue elements.

NO ALL-OUT WAR
————–

¶3. (C) To reinforce the government’s commitment to a
negotiated settlement while vigorously confronting any
insurgent attacks, Ermita issued a strongly worded statement
from President Arroyo that sought to allay fears that the
government was going to launch an all out war against Muslim
insurgents, or abandon the peace process. In the press
statement, issued August 21, President Arroyo emphasized that
military and police forces were strictly adhering to her
directive to bring specific MILF commanders to justice, while
restoring security to central Mindanao and avoiding civilian
casualties. Arroyo’s statement came on the heels of a
noticeable up-tick in rhetoric, both in the media and among
political leaders, that the government should widen the fight
against the MILF for their “terrorist actions.” Arroyo
stressed her belief that the peace process is not “defined by
armed groups alone, but by all communities and sectors
concerned,” and that armed rebellion does not have a place in
the Philippine democracy. The President also addressed
humanitarian concerns, saying that the military and police
had been instructed to work closely with local government
officials and community leaders in affected areas to ensure
the delivery of social services and relief supplies.

CREATING CONSENSUS FOR PEACE
—————————-

¶4. (C) In an August 22 breakfast meeting with the Ambassador,
Foreign Secretary Romulo had earlier outlined the
Administration’s plan for moving forward toward a viable

MANILA 00001997 002 OF 003

peace agreement in Mindanao. Romulo commented that it had
become clear to the government that the MOA currently stalled
in the Supreme Court would no longer suffice as written. He
mapped out President Arroyo’s new strategy to neutralize
rogue MILF elements while concurrently reaching out to
grassroots communities, NGOs, and religious organizations,
both Christian and Muslim, in order to build consensus for a
peace deal. Romulo expressed hope that the government’s plan
would begin to bear fruit within a month, giving the
government the opportunity to begin talks anew with the MILF.
He made it clear that the government was dissatisfied with
the Malaysian Government’s role, both as facilitators of the
peace process and as leaders of the International Monitoring
Team (IMT), and suggested that the Government of Brunei would
step forward to fill the void in the IMT.

¶5. (C) Ambassador underscored to Romulo the fundamental
importance of a peaceful and prosperous Mindanao, stressing
that good faith negotiations towards a peace agreement were
vital. She urged care on the part of the government to avoid
turning the heretofore isolated military clashes (ref A) into
a broader struggle with the MILF that would derail the peace
process, cost more lives, and damage more communities.
Ambassador also expressed her hope that Muslim insurgents who
had voluntarily surrendered would be treated according to the
law, as any other Philippine citizen would be treated.
Romulo acknowledged the importance of the Ambassador’s points
and expressed regret that various commentators had criticized
the U.S. role in the peace process in recent reports, calling
the arguments a “red herring.”

MILF CREDIBILITY SUFFERS
————————

¶6. (C) Also on August 22, Peace Process Advisor Esperon told
Ambassador that he believed the government’s plan to reach
out to grassroots communities, NGOs, and religious
organizations in Mindanao was a good start, though he doubted
that they, or anyone else would be able to pressure the MILF
to come to the negotiating table. He opined that the MILF
had lost significant credibility because of the unprovoked
attacks on civilians by some of its forces and expressed
confidence that Chief of the Armed Forces General Alexander
Yano would ably bring the situation to a peaceful end.

¶7. (C) In an August 20 conversation, Cotabato City Mayor and
Muslim leader Muslimin Sema told the A/DCM that he felt the
situation had stabilized over the past several days. Sema
believed that there had been “too much overreaction by our
Christian brothers . . . fear is taking hold,” but recognized
that there were many “hotheads” among the MILF. Sema was not
sure whether the Central Committee actually controlled the
MILF rogue commanders. He offered that the situation could
be defused if the government were even slightly more
conciliatory in its statements. However, he worried that
that more hawkish elements of the Philippine government and
the Armed Forces would dominate the government’s approach.

AMBASSADOR URGES RESTRAINT
————————–

¶8. (C) During the last two weeks, the Ambassador has
underscored at numerous public events the importance of
resolving conflict through negotiation, rather than violence.
Repeatedly asked by the media about the role of the U.S.
government in the peace process, the Ambassador continued to
emphasize that while the U.S. supports peace, prosperity, and
development in Mindanao, the U.S. is not a signatory to the
MOA, nor is the U.S. a party to peace negotiations. The
Ambassador observed that the U.S. does not support
independence for Mindanao, a consistent policy for more than
100 years. In private meetings with key government
officials, including Foreign Secretary Romulo, Executive
Secretary Ermita, and others, Ambassador reemphasized these
points.

COMMENT
——-

¶9. (C) At this point, the current peace process framework has
broken down. It is clear that the government and the MILF
failed to build a consensus for the Memorandum of Agreement
among the Philippine public at large. A notable error was
significantly expanding the Autonomous Region in Muslim
Mindanao, thus fostering the appearance that the government

MANILA 00001997 003 OF 003

was forfeiting security and constitutional powers to Muslim
insurgents. Sensing this failing, critics and opponents of
the Arroyo Administration in general, and the peace process
in particular, used the opportunity to bring the issue to the
politically susceptible Supreme Court, which immediately
stopped the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement. While
the lack of consultation with the Philippine public and the
appearance of capitulation to the insurgents were problems
that alone would have been difficult to overcome, they became
insurmountable when rogue elements of the MILF mounted
gruesome isolated attacks over the past two weeks that left
dozens of civilians dead and incited the anger of the
Philippine public across the board. Nonetheless, the
government appears determined to rectify its mistakes and
while the MILF may find it difficult to return to the
negotiating table, their weakened military state may leave
them no other alternative.
KENNEY

   

 

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