Sep 152014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09MANILA1500.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1500
2009-07-17 04:22
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO9679
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1500/01 1980422
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 170422Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4648
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001500

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/16/2019
TAGS: KISL PGOV PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: MALACANANG: NO AMNESTY FOR TERRORISTS

REF: A. MANILA 1468 (LAST REMAINING ICRC HOSTAGE EUGENIO
VAGNI RELEASED)
¶B. MANILA 1324 (SIX MONTHS LATER RED CROSS HOSTAGE
STILL HELD BY TERRORIST GROUP)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Malacanang Palace and numerous legislative
leaders have rejected a July 14 suggestion by Philippine
National Red Cross Chairman Senator Richard Gordon that the
government grant amnesty to Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists
who kidnapped three International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) workers in January, the last of whom was only released
July 12 after six months of captivity in the jungles of Jolo
Island. Malacanang and virtually all other voices in
Philippine government circles have made abundantly clear they
want nothing to do with granting amnesty to the country’s
bloodiest terrorist group. The Mission has reached out to
our Philippine interlocutors at every level to underscore
that any such amnesty for terrorists would have the most
severe repercussions for future bilateral cooperation in
counterterrorism and law enforcement. END SUMMARY.

SENATOR SUPPORTS AMNESTY FOR ASG
——————————–

¶2. (C) In the wake of the July 12 release of Red Cross
hostage Eugenio Vagni by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists on
Jolo Island, Philippine National Red Cross Chairman Senator
Richard Gordon this week proposed amnesty for the ASG, a call
that was roundly criticized by key national and local
officials, and even ridiculed by Senator Gordon’s
congressional colleagues. On the margins of Vagni’s July 14
courtesy call with President Arroyo, Gordon reportedly told
Malacanang Palace Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita that
amnesty for the ASG, combined with economic development
programs, could give the terrorists an alternative to
kidnapping. Ermita initially said that, pending a review of
Gordon’s specific proposal, the government would continue to
apply military pressure while pursuing development efforts in
the southern Philippines. Following Ermita’s statement,
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar said there
appeared to be “little ground” on which to base any amnesty
for the ASG. Speaking from a conference venue in Bali,
former Presidential Advisor for the Peace Process Jess Dureza
(now Presidential Advisor for Mindanao Affairs) was rather
less guarded in his response, saying, “No way! They have
committed the worst inhuman and barbaric crimes. They must
be made to pay for those atrocities.”

ERMITA: “CATEGORICALLY OPPOSED”
——————————-

¶3. (C) In a private July 16 conversation with the
Ambassador, Executive Secretary Ermita emphasized that the
Philippine government was categorically opposed to any such
amnesty, and that the muted initial reaction had only been
due to a junior-level deputy spokesperson being caught
off-guard by a questioner. Ermita went on to say that
President Arroyo’s cabinet was of one accord on the issue,
and that although amnesty might be an appropriate component
of peace negotiations with an insurgent group such as the
MILF, it had no place in dealing with active and unapologetic
terrorists. The Ambassador outlined that the Philippine
government’s initially mild reaction to Gordon’s proposal had
caught our attention, and any such move would of course
drastically affect all bilateral counterterrorism and law
enforcement cooperation. Ermita said that he understood
completely, and agreed that Gordon’s proposal should receive
no further consideration. Ambassador later spoke with former
Presidential Advisor for the Peace Process Jess Dureza (now
Advisor for Mindanao Affairs), thanking him for his strong
and unequivocal statements on the idea of amnesty.

KEY NATIONAL AND LOCAL OFFICIALS OPPPOSE AMNESTY
——————————————— —

¶4. (C) Gordon’s amnesty proposal drew strong criticism from
senior cabinet officials and congressional lawmakers. Defense
Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the idea would send the wrong
signal about the Philippine government’s commitment to
international counterterrorism efforts. Chief Presidential
Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez and National Security Advisor
Norberto Gonzales both cautioned that the Philippines should
not accommodate extremism, while Presidential Advisor on the
Peace Process Avelino Razon Jr., who has been tasked by
Malacaang to lead the review of the proposal, questioned its
moral and legal grounds. The ASG, Razon noted, was still

MANILA 00001500 002 OF 002

considered a terrorist group without a political agenda. On
the congressional side, Muntinlupa Representative Rufino
Biazon said the proposal runs counter to the government’s
policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and is akin to
giving them “retirement benefits.”

¶5. (C) Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Prospero
Nograles stressed that amnesty does not cover criminal
offenses perpetrated by terrorists and criminals; possible
parole or pardon would only be relevant after a plea of
guilty by the perpetrator. Nograles added that granting
amnesty to terrorists should not compromise the search for
peace and justice. Senators Manuel Villar Jr., Francis
Pangilinan, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Rodolfo Biazon were all
likewise unreceptive to the proposal. For his part, Sen.
Biazon vowed to block all efforts to grant amnesty to the Abu
Sayyaf, and Sen. Pangilinan cited the need for congressional
approval of any such move — approval that he doubted would
be granted.

MISSION OUTREACH DISCOURAGES NOTION
———————————–

¶6. (C) In a July 15 conversation with USAID Mission
Director, Office of Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process
(OPAPP) Undersecretary Nabil Tan said that amnesty was just
“Senator Gordon’s idea,” and was not supported by OPAPP or
provincial leaders. Undersecretary Tan said amnesty for the
ASG was not feasible, and that the ASG should be made to “pay
for their crimes,” adding that they should “come down from
the hills and face the law.” He planned to find ways for
OPAPP to publicly convey the message that amnesty was the
wrong approach. Jolo Governor Sakur Tan told the USAID
Director that he likewise disagreed with the concept of
amnesty, noting that it would “embolden the ASG,” making the
situation on Jolo “more dangerous for everyone.” In a
separate conversation with USAID Mission Director, Cotabato
City Mayor Muslimin Sema indicated that he thought any talk
of amnesty for the ASG kidnappers was “insane.” At a July 15
event in Manila attended by poloff, a Department of Foreign
Affairs Undersecretary and a retired senior military official
both scoffed at the idea that amnesty should be granted.

¶7. (C) In addition to the above conversations with OPAPP,
Governor Tan, and Mayor Sema, the Mission also reached out to
key counterparts in the law enforcement community, the
Philippine Department of Justice, the military, and the
Philippine intelligence community to point out that any move
to grant amnesty to the ASG would seriously undermine
bilateral counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation.
In each case, Philippine interlocutors offered assurances
that Senator Gordon’s musings would never gain traction in
the Philippines. The Embassy coordinated guidance released
to the press that underscored how any such move toward
amnesty would go against the Philippine government’s policy
of not negotiating with terrorists, and that applying the
rule of law through effective law enforcement and holding
criminals and terrorists accountable for their actions was
the best way to bring lasting peace and prosperity to
Mindanao and elsewhere.
KENNEY

   

 

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