Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/04/06MANILA1638.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA1638 2006-04-12 05:05 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO0184
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1638/01 1020505
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 120505Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0508
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001638

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, INR/EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/13/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINS ECON RP
SUBJECT: KEY GROUPS EXPRESS CONCERNS ABOUT CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE PLANS

REF: MANILA 1538 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Pol/C Scott Bellard for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: The powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of the Philippines (CBCP) and the influential Makati Business
Club (MBC) have issued statements asserting that the GRP and
its allies are moving forward too quickly with plans for
Constitutional change. Neither statement specifically
condemned the notion of shifting to a parliamentary system,
however. The GRP took note of the statements, but gave no
indication that it planned to slow down the process. A poll
by the respected Social Weather Station (SWS) reported that a
majority of the public does not support Constitutional change
at this point. The seeming haste of the people’s initiative
in particular may well end up as its undoing. End Summary.

——————
Bishops’ Statement
——————

¶2. (U) The CBCP issued a “Pastoral Statement” on April 7
expressing concern about the pace of Constitutional change
efforts, which now focus on a signature drive for a “People’s
Initiative” calling for a plebiscite to shift the current
bicameral system with an executive president to a unicameral
parliamentary system with an executive prime minister by
¶2010. The statement’s key points follow:

— “changing the Constitution involves major shifts in the
form of government and requires widespread participation,
total transparency, and relative serenity that allows for
rational discussion and debate.” These conditions were not
present at this time, the CBCP claimed, adding with “alarm”
that “signatures are apparently collected without adequate
information, discussion, and education.” The CBCP stated
that “the changes being proposed for signatures are also
dangerously unclear;”

— “the reasons for Constitutional change must be based on
the common good rather than on self-serving interests or the
interests of political dynasties.” The “lack of clarity”
regarding the signature campaign and the changes desired
raise “disturbing questions about who will truly benefit from
these changes” and “those who promote it.” The CBCP went on
to ask about who was funding the effort; and,

— The CBCP is not against Constitutional change per se, but
wanted Filipinos “to reflect and pray over” its points.

¶3. (C) According to Monsignor Hernando Coronel, an assistant
to Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, the CBCP statement was “simply
a reaction to what bishops felt was a mad rush toward making
changes without thinking things through.” The CBCP, he
underscored, had no position on whether or not the country
should change to a parliamentary system, but — whatever
happened — “the public needs to be fully consulted, which is
not happening now.” He added that many bishops, including
Cardinal Rosales, were skeptical of the efficacy of “change
for the sake of change,” believing that the country’s “rotten
culture of politics” was the main problem, not the system in
place now.

¶4. (U) On April 11, Sinag, a group of Catholic educators and
missionaries, separately issued a statement condemning the
Constitutional change effort, accusing President Arroyo of
using the effort for her own political ends. Sinag is
affiliated with the Association of Major Religious Superiors,
a large Catholic organization mainly focused on education,
which demanded Arroyo’s resignation last year.

—————————-
Key Business Group Chimes In
—————————-

¶5. (SBU) On April 10, the MBC also issued a statement,
cautioning “against the haste and haphazard manner in which
the government is pushing for Constitutional amendments.” It
asserted that there was a lack of “enlightened public
discussion and debate on the merits.” The current “People’s
Initiative” was flawed without enabling legislation, contrary
to a 1997 Supreme Court ruling. The MBC called for “more
careful study and public discussion to determine what is in
the best interest of the nation economically, socially, and
politically.” It went on to warn that “rushed decisions will
have negative repercussions for the country and its economy.”

MANILA 00001638 002 OF 002

————————————-
Poll Shows Change Proposal in Trouble
————————————-

¶6. (U) In a poll released on April 10, SWS reported that 56
percent of Filipinos did not support Constitutional change.
Only 42 percent of the public favored such change. SWS
asserted that its findings, based on a survey of 1,200 people
nationally, was “statistically significant” and “contrary to
the administration’s claim that Constitutional change was
unstoppable.” The poll also showed that public awareness of
the proposal to amend the Constitution was very low, with
only 13 percent saying they know what the proposal involves,
40 percent saying they know a little, and 46 percent saying
they do not know anything. While not as detailed or recent
as the SWS poll, a separate Pulse Asia poll also showed that
only a minority of respondents favor Constitutional change at
this time.

————
GRP Reaction
————

¶7. (U) Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye publicly expressed
Malacanang’s appreciation for the CBCP statement and said the
administration was “one with the Church in heeding the voice
of the people and serving their paramount interest. That is
why we will only carry out reforms that are sanctioned by the
Constitution, the Supreme Court and the Commission on
Elections.” House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles
separately voiced respect for the Church’s statement, but
added that he thought that the CBCP really should “keep out
of politics.”

¶8. (C) In an April 11 conversation with Dep Pol/C, Gabriel
Claudio, President Arroyo’s chief political adviser, said
that he took both the CBCP and MBC statements “very
seriously.” He added, however, that in his estimation
neither group was anti-charter change, but was simply
requesting that there be “additional deliberations and
consultations.” Malacanang, he said, was committed to doing
this. Queried re the poll results, he replied that it was
“very early in the process — public support will build as
the effort continues.”

——-
Comment
——-

¶9. (C) The CBCP and MBC statements do not bode well for the
success the current Malacanang-led effort to pursue a
people’s initiative to change the Constitution. While not
mortally dooming the ongoing process, the statements clearly
indicate that the GRP does not fully have its ducks in a row.
The seeming haste of the effort may well end up as its
undoing.

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