Oct 222014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA4343 2006-10-13 08:33 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #4343/01 2860833
O 130833Z OCT 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 004343



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/13/2016

Classified By: DCM Paul W. Jones, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary. DCM and Pol/C encouraged the head of the
Philippine Government negotiating panel with the MILF
insurgents to try to rejuvenate the peace talks, currently
stalled on the issue of land rights. The thoughtful and
experienced negotiator, Silvestre Afable, said he was
finalizing plans to transfer over 600 Muslim villages to the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as a sign of good faith,
but hundreds of other villages that lack Muslim majorities
remain in dispute. Afable described his efforts to convince
the MILF to use its nascent development agency to undertake
projects in disputed villages to convince them to vote in
favor of joining the ARMM. Even Christian villagers in
Mindanao felt so alienated from the national government that
they would respond favorably to development projects
sponsored by the MILF’s development agency, Afable
maintained, but it was hard to convince the MILF to open up
and act like a political entity. Afable suggested that the
U.S. could contribute to controlling a dangerous local feud
that threatened the peace process, while also gaining
influence over the MILF, by helping rebuild houses destroyed
in the fighting earlier this year in Maguindanao. We are
considering this proposal. While the actual negotiations are
stalled for now, political support for the peace process
remains strong, despite recent bombings attributed by some to
MILF-connected terrorists. End Summary.

¶2. (C) In a meeting with DCM and Pol/C on October 12, head
of the GRP negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF) Silvestre C. Afable described the counter-offer
he planned to present to the MILF by the end of the month in
order to revive the peace talks, currently stalled over
another dispute about land rights/ancestral domain. He said
he had been working closely with key members of Congress,
notably with Speaker of the House Jose De Venecia and Senator
Ed Angara, and now believes there is sufficient support for
legislation that would bring 613 new “barangays” (the lowest
governmental unit in the Philippines) into the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao. While he admitted this was
substantially less than the more than 3,000 barangays the
MILF had claimed, the GRP would present it as a first step.
Most of the 613 barangays were on the outskirts of the ARMM
but are located in provinces that are not predominantly
Muslim and so were not included in an earlier expansion of
the ARMM’s territory. Afable said that his earlier proposal
to conduct a joint census of disputed areas now appeared
dead, and speculated that the MILF opposed it because they
knew the outcome would not be favorable. DCM described how
expert international census assistance had played a useful
role in a similar situation in the Balkans, but Afable said
he had concluded that the MILF was not interested in any
census of local populations.

¶3. (C) Afable also described a new proposal to transform
the Bangsamoro Development Authority (BDA) into a fully legal
entity, perhaps even an official GRP entity if the MILF
desired. This, he said, would give the MILF easier and more
substantial access to funds that it could then use to promote
the welfare of local residents, and gain additional
credibility locally and internationally. Even Christian
villagers in Mindanao felt so alienated from the national
government that they would respond favorably to development
projects sponsored by the MILF’s development agency, Afable
maintained. He admitted that the GRP would have to
scrutinize the BDA’s programs very closely to ensure that
funds were not going for weapons. He admitted that his
earlier goal of revitalizing the Southern Philippines
Development Authority, with a board comprising both MILF and
Moro National Liberation Front members, had been dashed when
President Arroyo in September appointed as its new
administrator a member of the powerful Ampatuan clan from
Maguindanao, seen as hostile to the MILF. He expressed some
confusion about how the SPDA and BDA would co-exist.

¶4. (C) Afable attributed the tougher negotiating stance of
the MILF to internal rivalries, with hard-line local
commanders in the province of Lanao del Sur causing problems
for MILF Chairman Murad. An October 10 meeting of the
influential Bishops/Ulamas Conference in Davao, which
included representatives from the MILF, had vowed to play a
more active role in reducing tensions and encouraging peace.
However, the Ampatuan/MILF “rido” (revenge feud) was also
continuing in Maguindanao, with Governor Andal Ampatuan even
blocking the reconstruction of more than 200 homes that were
burned during the violence over the summer. Afable suggested
the USG consider undertaking the reconstruction of these
homes, either directly or through an international NGO. DCM
promised to discuss this possibility with USAID, some of
whose energy projects were also damaged or destroyed during
the fighting.

MANILA 00004343 002 OF 002

¶5. (C) At least three for-hire bombers, including one
Malaysian, under the protection of certain MILF commanders
appear to have been responsible for the four bombings on
October 10 and 11 in Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, according
to Afable. He said he was trying to convince the MILF to
turn these suspects over to authorities, along with some
other individuals (also under the protection of MILF
commanders) who have been formally charged with
responsibility for bombings over the past several years that
have killed members or supporters of the Ampatuan clan. He
said he was not optimistic of success, however. DCM noted
how surprising it was that there had been no calls by
politicians for breaking off peace talks in light of this
alleged MILF involvement in bombings, but Afable noted that
there was wide political support, even among the opposition,
for the peace process.

¶6. (C) Afable welcomed the prospect of direct talks between
Embassy representatives and MILF Chairman Murad, both to
demonstrate continued US support for the peace process and as
a way of encouraging MILF cooperation in the peace talks and
in the work of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) against
criminals and terrorists. He said that, despite the
frustration over land rights and peace talks, the
International Monitoring Team, AHJAG, and Coordinating
Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities continued to play
valuable roles. He also praised USG efforts on Jolo,
admitting his surprise that U.S. military humanitarian and
development efforts were so warmly received by villagers.

¶7. (C) Comment: While the peace talks remain stalled, the
good news is that the peace process on the ground continues,
with growing expressions of support from local communities
for peace and development. Pressure from residents on both
the GRP and the MILF may help push the two sides into
acceptable compromises, although the negotiating process will
likely still take considerable time, as will the
implementation period. USG assistance is playing a very
helpful role in changing the local environment and mentality
away from lawlessness and toward prosperity throughout Muslim

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm



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