Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09MANILA1414.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1414
2009-07-02 07:47
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4554
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001414

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV RP
SUBJECT: IN POOR HEALTH, FORMER PRESIDENT CORY AQUINO FIGHTS ONE LAST BATTLE

REF: MANILA 1262 (RALLY AGAINST CONSTITUTIONAL
REVISIONS DRAWS ONLY MODEST PARTICIPATION)

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino
is in serious medical condition after a 15-month battle
against cancer. Prospects for her recovery are dim. Family
members rushed Aquino to Makati Medical Center nine days ago
after she lost her appetite for food, and she has not eaten
since, although she remains conscious and is able to speak.
Relatives, friends, and political supporters began a nine-day
healing mass July 1 for the country’s venerated moral icon,
who was catapulted to the presidency in 1986 following the
earlier assassination of her husband, opposition leader
Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Two of Aquino’s five children
are popular personalities in politics and media, and are
likely to carry forth their mother’s support for democratic
rule. In addition to her reputation as one the Philippines’
modern heroes, Aquino will leave behind the legacy of an
incomplete transition to modern democracy and her well-known
antipathy for the nation’s current chief, President Arroyo.
END SUMMARY.

STRUGGLING AGAINST CANCER
————————-

¶2. (SBU) Former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino — or
“President Cory,” as she is fondly called by most Filipinos
— was diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2008 and was
rushed to the hospital nine days ago for emergency
chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Frail and weak from
battling the disease and from not eating, she has refused to
undergo additional procedures and rejected feeding through a
nose tube. Aquino’s former Malacanang assistant Margie Juico
said that the 76-year-old Aquino has already “surrendered to
God’s will.” The Aquino family has asked the public to pray
for her recovery during a nine-day mass. However, doctors
say prospects for Aquino’s recovery are dim, making this
battle the final challenge for an important public figure who
defined the Philippines’ transition from authoritarianism to
modern democratic rule more than twenty years ago, following
in the footsteps of her celebrated husband, Benigno “Ninoy”
Aquino, Jr., who was assassinated in 1983. In morning radio
interviews July 2, the Ambassador told listeners that the
prayers of Mrs. Aquino’s many admirers were with her and her
family in hopes of a speedy recovery.

AQUINO CHILDREN MOURN MOTHER’S SICKNESS
—————————————

¶3. (SBU) Aquino will leave behind five children, two of whom
have become national figures. Son Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino
III was elected to his first term as Senator in 2007 after
serving three terms in Congress as representative of Tarlac
province, political bailiwick of the Aquino-Cojuanco clan.
He survived the 1987 failed coup attempt against his mother,
when he was hit by five bullets as military rebels stormed
the Presidential Palace, Malcanang. Benigno belongs to the
oppositionist Liberal Party which will field Senator Manuel
Roxas II as a leading candidate in the May 2010 presidential
elections. Aquino’s highly popular and influential daughter,
Kris, a show business personality who has generously footed
her mother’s medical bills, has stated her intention to enter
politics, possibly in 2010. The youngest of the Aquino
brood, Kris was barely twelve years old when her father was
assassinated in 1983. Aquino’s three other daughters kept
low profiles during and after their mother’s six years in
Malacanang. Having witnessed their father’s political
persecution under the Marcos dictatorship, the Aquino
children are inconsolable over losing their remaining pillar
of strength.

“CORY” — ICON OF DEMOCRACY
—————————

¶4. (SBU) The 1983 assassination of Aquino’s husband Ninoy
during the Marcos regime triggered a “People Power”
revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and
catapulted Cory Aquino to the presidency from 1986 through
¶1992. She is credited for helping restore Philippine
democracy after twenty years under Marcos. However, her
presidency was rocked by at least seven failed coup attempts.
In a bloody 1989 coup attempt by the military, Aquino sought
and received U.S. assistance to quell violence which killed
nearly a hundred people, including some 50 civilians.
Although she retired from politics after her six-year term,
she became a visible figure in the moral crusade against

MANILA 00001414 002 OF 002

government corruption during the Estrada and Arroyo
administrations. Aquino maintained the respect of peers in
the political establishment, including Senator Roxas, who
called Aquino a “great leader” he could “respect and emulate.”

BUT ONLY A PARTIAL ICON OF MORALITY
———————————–

¶5. (SBU) Once allied with President Arroyo, Aquino asked
Arroyo to make the “supreme sacrifice” of resigning following
Arroyo’s 2004 “Hello Garci” election fraud controversy and
subsequent impeachment moves against her in the House of
Representatives. Aquino has since supported civil society
protests against President Arroyo (reftel), including efforts
to block constitutional revisions that critics fear could
perpetuate President Arroyo’s hold on power after her term
expires in 2010. However, Aquino’s credibility as a moral
crusader was tarnished when she was seen with disgraced
former President Estrada in protest movements against
President Arroyo — even after she supported then-Vice
President Arroyo’s 2001 successful “second people power”
revolt which ousted President Estrada. Her falling out with
the Arroyo administration continued after President Arroyo’s
move to distribute Hacienda Luisita, the huge
Aquino-Cojuangco sugar estate in Tarlac, to farm workers
under the government’s agrarian reform program.

COMMENT: THE AQUINO LEGACY
————————–

¶6. (SBU) Revered as a hero for taking the reins of power at a
difficult moment in Philippine politics, and at a time of
great personal loss, President Aquino leaves behind an
incomplete transition to democratic governance that, while
marked by great personal freedom for Philippine citizens,
never seems to have properly taken root in the institutions
that must handle the difficult task of governing a diverse
and divided society. Her moral leadership, while coming at
an important time for the Philippines, never fully
compensated for her weak leadership style. Her presidency
was marked by numerous coup attempts and allegations of
corruption. Following her tenure, her antipathy toward
President Arroyo led her to ally with more dubious political
figures such as former President Estrada, blemishing her
reputation as a moral crusader. The Philippines must also
live with an imperfect 1987 Constitution that, according to
some observers, was passed in extreme haste to meet an
artificial deadline imposed by Aquino, taking the country
from one extreme — rigid rule under Marcos — to another
extreme, in which minority parties and groups without defined
constituencies (such as the Philippine Senate) are given
extensive power at the expense of a more mature and stable
political system.

KENNEY

   

 

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