Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/05/05MANILA1988.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1988 2005-05-02 09:21 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 03 MANILA 001988

SIPDIS

BANGKOK FOR D STAFF
STATE FOR EAP/PMBS, INR/EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/02/2015
TAGS: PGOV PINS PREL PINR ELAB RP
SUBJECT: MALACANANG DOWNPLAYS LATEST DESTABILIZATION PLOT

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary. Former Defense Secretary Fortunato Abat and
other retired officials stirred fresh coup plot jitters on
April 30 when they publicly called for a “revolutionary
transition government” to replace the current administration.
Malacanang downplayed the move, while the GRP continues to
determine whether to charge Abat and others with sedition.
Former president Fidel Ramos denied any links with the group
and publicly reaffirmed his support for the administration.
Opposition figures, including former president Estrada and
FPJ’s widow Susan Roces, also distanced themselves. Few take
Abat’s effort seriously and it has no discernible support in
the military. Mission continues to underscore USG support
for democracy and our total opposition to any form of
extra-constitutional action. End Summary.

———————————-
“Coalition” Holds Press Conference
———————————-

¶2. (SBU) Former Defense Secretary Fortunato Abat and other
retired officials on April 30 called for a “revolutionary
transition government” to replace the current administration.
Abat, an 80-year old retired major general and SecDef under
President Ramos 1997-98, addressed a public meeting in metro
Manila and unveiled a “Program for National Salvation.” He
charged the GRP with failing to solve crucial national
problems, including endemic poverty and corruption and his
group’s 14-page program called for a &Revolutionary
Transition” to a “new, Federal Republic of the Philippines”
that would be managed by a “Revolutionary Council” led by
both a Chairman and CEO, and which would include the Chief
Justice, and leaders of the Philippine National Police (PNP)
and the AFP. The program also contained a “Prayer for New
Hope,” a “Premise for Change” detailing transitional steps
toward a new government, and a five-page proposal calling for
“authoritative government derived from the culture of the
Filipino family that is traditionally paternalistic.” Abat
insisted that his plan derived legitimacy from — and was
inspired by — Section 1, Article II of the 1987
Constitution, which states that “sovereignty resides in the
people and all government authority emanates from them.”
Abat was quick to dismiss suggestions that his group — the
“Coalition for National Salvation Movement” — was
spearheading a revolt, instead asserting to reporters that
“our only intention is to present our proposal for a
revolutionary transition in order to reform this government.”

¶3. (SBU) Abat’s group reportedly also included: Gen. (ret’d)
Ismael Appari of the “Soldier’s Union Armed Forces
Revolutionary Movement”; Atty. Louie Sison of Brother Eddie
Villanueva’s Bangon movement; Col. (ret’d) Guillermo Cunanan
of the Christian Nationalist Union; Hamil Lucman Alonto of
the Muslim Democratic Union; and former Budget Secretary
Salvador Enriquez. The April 30 meeting, which reportedly
had a rushed, poorly choreographed feeling to it, ended in
considerable confusion as Abat stormed out, apparently in
reaction to protests from some attendees to a plan to
participate in anti-Arroyo rallies to be held on May Day.

——————————–
Malacanang Downplays “Coup” Plot
——————————–

¶4. (U) Malacanang downplayed Abat’s move. After hearing the
news, President Arroyo told reporters that “we are dealing
with nuisances and there are no real threats,” adding “some
critics are addicted to airing destabilization talk.” Arroyo
then held a May 1 labor day mass and meeting with members of
labor groups at Malacanang Palace. Presidential Spokesman
Secretary Ignacio Bunye issued several public comments

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upholding Philippine democracy and the rule of law, and
reaffirming the GRP’s &routine8 efforts to ensure public
safety and order. He also called Abat’s manifesto &the rant
of a peddler of false hope.8 Prominent politicians
disavowed the Abat group, including Speaker of the House
Joseph De Venecia, who condemned it and called for an
&open8 meeting of political leaders to condemn talk of
“coup attempts.”

¶5. (U) The Philippine National Police, the Department of
Justice, and military security continue to determine whether
to charge Abat and others with sedition. Justice Secretary
Raul Gonzalez criticized Abat for holding the April 30 press
conference and “making threats” against the government. The
PNP is investigating whether Abat or others actually took
steps &to destabilize8 the government. Senior officials of
the Armed Forces of the Philippines expressed support for the
president and loyalty to the government. In a weekend radio
message, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Generoso Senga said he had made
telephone calls to remind several area commanders that they
must follow the chain of command. According to media
reports, some AFP commanders received invitations to join
Abat’s group, but had turned the offer down.

——————-
Ramos Disavows Move
——————-

¶6. (SBU) Former president Ramos explicitly denied any links
with Abat,s group and publicly reaffirmed his support for
the administration. Ramos, interrupting a golf game with
First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, called a press conference,
during which he denounced Abat’s proposed solutions as being
“completely wrong.” Sitting alongside Malacanang Executive
Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Ramos described Abat’s effort as “a

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harebrained scheme.” Ramos added that the last time he had
communicated with Abat was five to six months ago, and that
at that time he had had a falling out with Abat’s “radical”
proposals on how to improve the government. Ramos expressed
full confidence in the Arroyo administration and its ability
to solve the country’s problems.

—————————
Opposition Distances Itself
—————————

¶7. (SBU) Opposition figures also distanced themselves from
Abat’s announcement. Former President Estrada, who is under
house arrest, claimed that unspecified “FVR (Ramos) men” had
unsuccessfully tried to recruit him to join them as a member
of the “revolutionary council.” Estrada said he belittled
the effort and chided the group by suggesting that if they
really wanted him to support them, “they should make me the
leader, the principal.” Senate Minority Leader Aquilino
Pimentel called any call to establish a junta “illegal” and
“unacceptable.”

¶8. (C) Popular actress Susan Roces — widow of 2004
opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ), who
finished a close second to Arroyo — met with Pol/C on April
30, and expressed dislike for Abat and his supporters. She
insisted that she had nothing to do with Abat and manifested
her contempt for him, especially some intemperate language he
had used. She wondered whether he would face charges of
sedition. Roces nonetheless also vented her frustration and
bitterness with President Arroyo, and the perceived
“injustice” of the May 2004 election, but reiterated her
disinclination to become personally involved in Philippine
politics.

——-
Comment
——-

¶9. (C) Few take Abat’s effort seriously and it has no
discernible support in the military. Some observers have
labeled it tragic-comedic effort in light of its inept
staging and the apparent tensions among members of the group.
Many assert that Abat’s major gripe with President Arroyo is
personal — Abat was not re-appointed to a commission
involved in base conversion in 2004 and reportedly remains
angry with Arroyo over that fact. Given the Philippines,
long history of coup attempts, however, it is important that
Malacanang nip any incipient coup effort firmly in the bud —
but not panic. So far, Malacanang appears to have found the
right mix in its response, which has been calm and judicious
in tone. Mission continues to underscore USG support for
democracy and our total opposition to any form of
extra-constitutional action.

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:
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