Oct 232014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-10-25 09:38
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005023



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/26/2015

Classified By: (U) Charge d’Affaires, a.i., Scott Bellard
for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

¶1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. There are disturbing indications that
recidivist coup plotter “Gringo” Honasan and opposition
Senator “Ping” Lacson may be at the very least associated
with plots against President Arroyo in conjunction with the
Young Officers Union (YOU), a shadowy cabal of junior and
mid-grade Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers.
The AFP is aware of the possible threat, but its leadership
does not appear overly concerned and committed to keeping the
AFP apolitical. The nature and extent of YOU’s support
within the military is likely less significant than its
supporters claim, but perhaps greater than we had realized,
given that dissatisfaction in the ranks is reportedly
growing. Any coup attempt would likely split the military,
undermine reform efforts, and potentially trigger civil
conflict. We have emphatically and repeatedly made clear
that the United States firmly opposes any
extra-constitutional action, stressing that any effort to
overthrow the government would result in a cut off of US
assistance and would have serious negative implications for
the Philippines’ international image and its investment
climate as well. END SUMMARY.


¶2. (S/NF) In an October 25 meeting with poloff, former
Chief of Staff to then-President Corazon Aquino Oscar Orbus
claimed to be a conduit to the Young Officers Union (YOU), a
cabal of junior and mid-grade officers whom he described as
“plotting against the government.” (Note: This version of
YOU — also known as YOU-New Generation — apparently has its
roots in an earlier anti-Marcos Young Officers Union within
the AFP. End note.) Orbus claimed YOU is an “army within an
army,” with its own command and battle staffs. He claimed
that former Senator and recidivist coup plotter Gregorio
“Gringo” Honasan (Philippine Military Academy ’71) is one of
YOU’s “kuyas” (older brothers or senior advisors), as are two
cronies of opposition Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson (PMA ’71)
— Victor Batac (PMA ’71) and Jake Malahakan (PMA ’71) — as
well as Pastor “Boy” Saycon, who is associated with the
left-leaning Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA). Notably,
YOU’s manifesto, dated July 21, 2005, can be found on Ping
Lacson’s website: www.pl.888.ph/articles/you.php.

¶3. (S/NF) Poloff emphatically told Orbus that the USG
supported the rule of law and opposed all
extra-constitutional action. He warned that any effort to
overthrow the government or the elected President would
result in a cut off of US assistance and jeopardize the
ongoing defense reform program.


¶4. (S/NF) Orbus stated that YOU members believed that,
because there is “no hope for reform,” the AFP — as the
“protector of the people and the State” (as described in
Article II, Section 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, he
noted) — “needed to do something.” He asserted YOU’s plans
are 70-percent complete and that it was waiting for the right
time to engage in a “constitutional rescue.”

¶5. (S/NF) Orbus claimed that YOU had established a “tactical
alliance” with the Left to remove President Arroyo from
office. It hopes to isolate Arroyo loyalists — he cited
Philippine Army Commanding General LTG Hermogenes Esperon and
Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Chief Avelino Razon
— to achieve a “bloodless coup” but was prepared to fight,
if necessary. According to Orbus, the YOU plotters had
already discounted any meaningful response from the PNP,
believing YOU forces could “neutralize” the Special Action
Force (SAF).

¶6. (S/NF) Orbus claimed further that YOU was one of many
small groups plotting against the government, any or some of
which might play a “starter role” in precipitating a coup
attempt against President Arroyo. YOU would then seek to
capitalize on any such effort to catalyze support for its own
cause, Orbus described. (Note: A recent article in the
respected “Newsbreak” magazine quoted one AFP officer as
claiming the AFP was now 70 pct against President Arroyo, a
marked increase since July, the article noted. End note)

¶7. (S/NF) If it successfully seized power, YOU planned to
abolish the Senate and House and establish an inter-regnum
ruling council that would govern for 12 to 18 months before
holding an election, according to Orbus. He claimed further
that he was helping to shape the junta’s agenda. “If it will
happen anyway, I want to ensure a good product,” he said.


¶8. (S/NF) Colonel Carlos Holganza, Senior Military Advisor
to Secretary of National Defense Cruz, separately told JUSMAG
Chief on October 26 that the DND/AFP leadership is aware of
YOU’s activities, but is not overly concerned, believing the
organization is fractured and not representative of the AFP’s
junior officer corps. He said that Secretary Cruz believed
the best way to counter YOU was to continue to educate the
troops and junior officers about defense reform. In an
October 22 address to Philippine Military Academy (PMA)
cadets, Cruz urged the AFP to focus on reform and stay

¶9. (S/NF) Holganza noted that Brigadier General Danilo Lim,
the current Commander of the Scout Rangers — who had been a
member of the earlier version of YOU and one of the leaders
of the nearly successful attempt in 1989 to overthrow
then-president Aquino — now fully supported the
Constitution. According to Holganza, BG Lim had the Scout
Rangers — which had participated in almost every coup
attempt — firmly under control.

¶10. (S/NF) COMMENT. We made clear to Orbus, as we have
categorically and repeatedly in public and private statements
to a wide variety of interlocutors for and against the
current Administration, that we would forcefully oppose
extra-legal and extra-Constitutional efforts to change the
democratically elected leadership of this country. In
addition to negative implications for USG assistance, we have
highlighted the disastrous impact such efforts, successful or
not, would have on the Philippines’ international image and
its investment climate. Any coup attempt would be a disaster
for this still evolving democracy and its economy. It would
pit the military against itself, undermine reform efforts,
and potentially unleash a civil war, with the Communist Party
of the Philippines/New Peoples’ Army possibly seeking to reap
the benefits. YOU’s apparent ties with Lacson and Honasan
are troubling but not surprising. Orbus, who sought this
meeting and had originally hoped to introduce YOU officers
directly to emboffs, appears to be another inveterate coup
plotter who is maneuvering for a personal role. The nature
and extent of YOU’s support among serving military officers
are likely much less considerable than Orbus implied, but
perhaps greater than we had realized. However, Embassy at
this time has no/no indication of any active coup planning
among AFP units, and continues to believe that the senior AFP
leadership in particular wishes to keep the AFP out of
politics, as AFP Chief of Staff General Generoso Senga and
Secretary of Defense Avelino Cruz have both stressed. We

will continue to reinforce our message and hope that
President Arroyo’s still growing unpopularity (in and out of
the AFP) and a self-destructive Philippine penchant for coup
plotting do not lead to more foolhardy and damaging actions
as described by Orbus.

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



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