Oct 232014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3810 2005-08-18 08:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003810



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2015


¶B. MANILA 3593
¶C. MANILA 3458
¶D. MANILA 3391
¶E. MANILA 2777

Classified By: Political Officer Timothy Cipullo
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: House hearings into the impeachment charges
brought against President Arroyo are continuing, but
pro-Arroyo and Opposition members continue to argue over
procedure. In other legislative news, a House leader has
advocated the formation of a constituent assembly that would
focus on transforming the current governing structure into a
parliamentary system. Senators, who do not want to see their
body dissolved, have lashed out at the House proposal. At
this point, the Opposition’s impeachment effort seems to be
in serious trouble — there is little sign that it is picking
up any new support in the House or among the public at large.
End Summary.

Impeachment Complaint Stalled Over Procedure

¶2. (U) House Justice Committee hearings on August 16-17
focused on the procedural question of whether to consider an
impeachment complaint filed by a private citizen against
President Arroyo or the amended complaint filed subsequently
by 42 Opposition legislators. After much discussion and
arguing between the pro-Arroyo and Opposition camps, the
Committee still had not reached a decision. It agreed to
hold further hearings on August 23-24 to discuss and vote on
the issue. The Opposition continues to argue heatedly that
its amended complaint is the one that should be reviewed by
the House. The pro-Arroyo majority argues that the earlier
complaint is the one that should legally have priority. As
of this point, the Opposition has yet to call a witness or
make any other presentation in the Committee as to the
substantive nature of its case against Arroyo. Charlie
Serapio, a lawyer and pro-Opposition figure, told Acting
Pol/C on August 17 that he wondered when the Opposition would
be able to make its case, remarking: “I think Majority
members are working to derail the impeachment proceedings
and, unfortunately, they have the votes.”

¶3. (SBU) The issue of the whereabouts of a potentially key
witness in the impeachment debate continues to make news.
Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Franklin Ebdalin
has publicly confirmed that former Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) official Virgilio Garcillano left Manila on July 14
bound for Singapore aboard a private jet. Singaporean
immigration authorities also confirmed that Garcillano
departed the following day for the United Kingdom. His
current location is not known. In July, Congress issued a
summons for Garcillano to testify in the House impeachment
hearings. When he failed to appear, the House found him in
contempt and authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.
Garcillano became a central figure when audio-tapes that
contain conversations he had with President Arroyo during the
vote-counting phase after the May 2004 elections were
released to the public — see ref e. The Opposition has made
clear that questioning Garcillano, or “Garci” as he is called
in the press, is central to its impeachment case.

¶4. (SBU) Regarding the audio-tapes, Department of
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Mike Defensor
alleged at an August 12 press conference that analysis by an
“independent audio expert” had concluded that the tapes were
spliced and “doctored.” Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a
staunch Arroyo foe, called for experts in the U.S. and
Australia to authenticate both Defensor’s copies of the tapes
and his own. He said that he would ask the Opposition to
withdraw the impeachment complaint and he would personally
apologize to President Arroyo if the tapes proved to be
fabricated. (Note: Various Filipino politicians and others
have publicly floated the idea of the USG’s examining the
tapes in order to determine their authenticity. The GRP has
made no formal request to the FBI, however, and the FBI has
no plans to accede to such a request if one is made. End

Discussing Constitutional Change

¶5. (C) In other legislative news, Constantino Jaraula, the
Chairman of the House Constitutional Amendments Committee,
announced on August 16 that the House plans to convene a
constituent assembly to amend the Constitution in order to
shift the current structure to a parliamentary system.
Jaraula averred that such a move would be possible with a
vote of three-quarters of the members of both houses, i.e.,
195 votes by any of the 236 representatives plus 23 senators.
Senate President Franklin Drilon reacted angrily to the
proposal, calling the suggestion “patently unconstitutional.”
He insisted that the House and Senate must vote separately,
asserting that a 3/4 majority in both bodies would be
necessary in order to convene a constituent assembly. Drilon
has publicly stated that he is not against the idea of
establishing a parliamentary system, per se, but would prefer
that any debate on the matter take place via a Constitutional
convention, whereby delegates would be chosen in a national

¶6. (C) Senators of all stripes are lining up behind Drilon.
In an August 16 meeting, Senator Joker Arroyo, who is
pro-Arroyo, commented that Jaraula’s proposal was “dead in
the water” in the Senate. In an August 17 meeting, Senator
Maria Anna Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, an Opposition member,
told Acting Pol/C that there was no way that the Senate would
support the House’s current model for Constitutional change.
Arroyo and Madrigal both made clear that senators are not
inclined to support Constitutional change proposals that
basically seek to dissolve the Senate and turn the system
into a unicameral one.


¶7. (C) At this point, the Opposition’s impeachment effort
seems to be in serious trouble. To achieve a referral to the
Senate, the Opposition needs 79 or more endorsements from
members of the 236-member house (or one-third of the total).
So far, the Opposition’s complaint might have around 50
supporters (ref b), but no one has apparently signed up in
the past couple of weeks. At the same time, despite the
Opposition’s best efforts, the public at large does not seem
to care much about the proceedings. People are not glued to
their TV sets or talking and creating a buzz about what is
transpiring. Re the Constitutional change proposal, there is
little doubt that this perennial issue is going to generate
increased attention as House members press the matter
forward, but agreement among all key players (Malacanang,
House, the Senate, etc.) will be difficult to reach, to put
it mildly.

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

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:




Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.