Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/02/06MANILA711.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA711
2006-02-16 08:12
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO9190
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0711/01 0470812
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 160812Z FEB 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9313
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000711

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINS PINR RP
SUBJECT: MALACANANG MODIFIES RESTRICTION AND ALLOWS SENIOR OFFICIALS TO ATTEND CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS

REF: A. MANILA 306
¶B. 05 MANILA 4740
¶C. 05 MANILA 4637
¶D. 05 MANILA 4464
¶E. 05 MANILA 3154

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Joseph L. Novak for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: On February 11, Malacanang modified an
executive order (E.O. 464) in effect since September 2005 and
allowed senior officials to attend budget and other hearings
in the House and Senate. In taking the step, Malacanang was
responding to criticism that E.O. 464 encroached on the
powers of the legislative branch. The controversy remains
alive: the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on
E.O 464 shortly. Unless ordered to do so by the Court,
Malacanang is unlikely to rescind the order given its view
that Congress (especially the Senate) has used past hearings
sheerly to embarrass the administration. End Summary.

———————————-
Malacanang Relaxes Executive Order
———————————-

¶2. (U) On February 11, Malacanang issued Memorandum Order
192-A which modified a September 2005 executive order (E.O.
464) preventing Cabinet and other senior officials (including
those in the military and police) from appearing at
Congressional hearings without prior clearance from the
President’s Office. The memorandum specifically authorizes
senior GRP officials to attend Congressional budget hearings
and Commission on Appointments (CA) hearings until June 30
without obtaining prior authorization from Malacanang.
(Note: The CA is a joint House/Senate committee that reviews
high-level nominations for Executive Branch appointments.
End Note.) As a result of the memorandum, officials from the
Department of Justice attended Senate budget hearings on
February 13 and other officials are expected to attend
additional hearings later this month.

¶3. (U) Despite the recent memorandum, Malacanang made clear
that it has not altered its basic position on E.O. 464.
President Arroyo’s Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye stated on
February 11 that the administration was temporarily relaxing
the ban as it wanted to try to build a “constructive
relationship” with the Senate. He went on to defend E.O.
464, claiming that the order was meant as a “shield against
political persecution, grandstanding, and character
assassination.” He gave no indication that Malacanang
planned to rescind the order at any point soon.

¶4. (U) Background: President Arroyo issued E.O. 464 in
September 2005 in response to televised hearings in which
senators mercilessly grilled National Security Advisor
Norberto “Bert” Gonzales about a contract involving U.S. law
firm Venable LLP for lobbying services (refs B and D). In
late September, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief
Generoso Senga relieved two high-ranking military officers
from their posts for testifying before a Senate inquiry into
election irregularities without prior military or GRP
authorization (ref C).

——————–
Continued Complaints
——————–

¶5. (C) Malacanang’s decision to modify E.O. 464 followed an
outcry from legislators — especially in the Senate —
complaining that administration officials were not
participating in ongoing budget hearings. Senator Aquilino
Pimental, a member of the Opposition, publicly asserted that
E.O. 464 was “totally against Constitutional provisions
providing for legislative oversight” of the budget and on
other matters. Congressman Ronnie Zamora, another Opposition
legislator, told Acting Pol/C that E.O. 464, in practice, was
basically precluding administration officials from testifying
before Congress.

¶6. (C) Legislators continue to complain about the order even
after Malacanang’s recent move. Senator Edgardo Angara, who
maintains close links with Malacanang, stated that the order
must be done away with. Senator Rodolfo Biazon, who has
called for President Arroyo to resign, was quoted as stating
that he appreciated Malacanang’s recent step, but he called
on the President to “once and for all get rid of this
requirement which is destroying amity between the branches.”

MANILA 00000711 002 OF 002

In a January 19 meeting, Biazon, the Chair of the Committee
on National Defense, also told Acting Pol/C that he was
having trouble scheduling further hearings to look into
alleged illegal wiretapping because no one from the
administration planned to show up. (Note: In January
hearings, Biazon and other senators charged that members of
the military — acting at the behest of Malacanang — had
wiretapped phones during the May 2004 election timeframe.
See ref A. End Note.)

——————————
Supreme Court Reviewing Matter
——————————

¶7. (U) Several groups have challenged the constitutionality
of E.O. 464. On October 3, 2005, members of Bayan Muna, a
left-wing Opposition party, filed a petition urging the
Supreme Court to halt implementation of the order. Sixteen
(of 23 current) members of the Senate — including both
pro-administration and Opposition elements — subsequently
filed a similar petition. These petitions have not yet been
ruled on. Malacanang, for its part, argues that it will
continue to fight efforts to strike down E.O. 464. It
asserts that the order complies with the Constitution and
protects Executive Branch prerogatives.

¶8. (U) On February 13, the 40,000-member Integrated Bar of
the Philippines petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a
temporary restraining order (TRO) regarding E.O. 464 on the
grounds that it was doing acute and irrevocable harm to
Constitutional arrangements as long as it was in force. The
Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the
matter on February 21 and will likely decide whether or not
to issue a TRO at that time. In remarks to reporters on
February 15, Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban
indicated that the Court had not issued a TRO already, in
part, because President Arroyo’s recent memo modifying E.O.
464 helped to maintain the status quo between the branches.

——-
Comment
——-

¶9. (C) Unless ordered to do so by the Supreme Court,
Malacanang is unlikely to rescind E.O. 464 given its view
that Congress (especially the Senate) has used past hearings
sheerly to embarrass the administration. Its recent move
modifying the order was clearly aimed at placating critics,
though that has not been successful. This controversy will
likely linger as long as Malacanang/Senate ties remain
frayed. (Note: See ref B for further background on the
troubled Malacanang/Senate relationship. End Note.)

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You can also access this site through the State Department’s
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Jones

   

 

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