Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/02/08MANILA517.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA517
2008-02-29 07:33
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO0664
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0517/01 0600733
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 290733Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9935
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 000517

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2018
TAGS: PGOV KCOR PINR RP
SUBJECT: MANILA BRACES FOR ANOTHER ANTI-ARROYO DEMONSTRATION

REF: A. MANILA 483 (LIMITED PROTESTS MARK ANNIVERSARY)
¶B. MANILA 404 (BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS ROIL ADMNISTRATION)
¶C. MANILA 316 (HOUSE SPEAKER OUSTED)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Political turmoil over corruption allegations
continues to roil the Arroyo administration, and Manila authorities are
bracing for yet another anti-Arroyo demonstration, this one slated for
Friday, February 29. As the political ferment continues here, the
Ambassador and Mission representatives have been actively engaging
present and former government officials, military top brass, and
business and media leaders to emphasize several key points, including
that civic protests are an essential right and a sign of a healthy
democracy, as long as they are conducted peacefully and legally;
extra-constitutional actions by the military or other actors are not a
remedy to political discord; and political stability is vital for good
governance, rule of law, and sustained economic growth. In several
meetings with senior government officials, including President Arroyo,
the Ambassador also has underscored the need for the administration to
address aggressively and thoroughly public concern about perceived
government corruption. END SUMMARY.

LEAP YEAR DAY PROTEST PLANNED
—————————–

¶2. (SBU) In another attempt at a people power-style movement to unseat
the President amid allegations of corruption (ref B), opposition groups
are planning a large anti-Arroyo rally on February 29 – leap year day,
which some Filipinos consider particularly propitious for new
initiatives – in Metro Manila’s business district. Spearheaded by
Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay of the United Opposition, the “inter-faith
and multi-sectoral” rally will be led by former President Corazon
Aquino and organizers hope for participation by key civil society
figures along with students from at least four major universities.
Militant groups led by leftist organization BAYAN also are scheduled to
participate, as well as various lawyers groups. Religious activists
from the Catholic Church, the Protestant religious groups “Jesus is
Lord Movement” and “United Church of Christ” in the Philippines, and
the ecumenical National Council of Churches in the Philippines have
said they will join the demonstration. The planners estimate that they
need a million people to participate — about the same number that
launched the two previous people power movements — to oust President
Arroyo. Opposition figures who attended a long-scheduled Embassy award
ceremony February 28 featuring former President Cory Aquino suggested
the actual number of participants would probably not reach more than
50,000, a figure the police consider optimistic.

CBCP ISSUES MEASURED STATEMENT
——————————

¶3. (SBU) While some activist Catholic leaders publicly had been
advocating President Arroyo’s resignation, others had called for
sobriety and reflection. To resolve these differences and speak with
one voice, the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the
Philippines (CBCP), which claims support from more than 80 percent of
the Philippine population, held a special session February 25 and
resolved not to support the call for Arroyo’s resignation. Instead,
the Conference issued a pastoral statement on February 26 urging the
President to take the lead in combating corruption and reverse the
Administration’s policy not to permit government officials to testify
in investigations of alleged government irregularities without express
permission from the President. The Conference, under the active
leadership of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, played a pivotal role in the
two previous people power revolts that brought down Presidents Marcos
and Estrada.

NATIONAL POLICE AND ARMED FORCES ON ALERT
—————————————–

¶4. (C) The Philippine National Police estimates a maximum of 20,000
people will participate in the planned evening demonstration. As a
precaution, Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon,
Jr. has placed all Manila-area police on full alert in advance of the
protests and will deploy 200 police officers for general policing
purposes and to assist traffic. The police will not hold firearms and
will keep a 100-meter distance from the crowd. About 3,000 Anti-Riot
Task Force police will be on standby away from the rally site.
Separately, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, still on red alert,
will play a secondary role. Three battalions of Armed Forces troops
with fire extinguishers will be on standby inside Camp Aguinaldo, ready
for deployment upon the request of the National Police. According to
police contacts, Makati Mayor Binay assured police officials that he
would personally make the announcement for demonstrators to disperse at
8:00 p.m. The Philippine weather bureau is forecasting cloudy skies
and scattered showers on February 29.

MISSION STRESSES RESPONSIBLE ACT BY GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY

MANILA 00000517 002 OF 003

——————————————— ——————-

¶5. (C) In a series of meetings with civil society representatives and
religious and business leaders, Mission representatives have stressed
consistently that while civic protests are both a constitutional right
and a sign of a healthy democracy, extra-constitutional means to change
political leadership are harmful to democratic institutions and the
economy. The importance of political stability to democratic
institutions, good governance, rule of law, and sustained economic
growth has also been a key theme. At the Embassy’s annual Ninoy Aquino
Awards Ceremony February 28, the Ambassador discussed these concerns
with former President Corazon Aquino, a leading figure in the efforts
to remove President Arroyo from power. President Aquino was adamant
that there was no alternative but for President Arroyo to step down,
citing pervasive corruption and what she claimed was increasing
intimidation of press. Aquino believed that not even bold reform
efforts could salvage Arroyo’s presidency. However, in a telling
response to the Ambassador’s query about who might follow President
Arroyo, Aquino had no ready reply. Still, Mrs. Aquino said that she
was dismayed that she was unable to move the Catholic Church to
decisively support her efforts to unseat the President. “Where is the
courage of Cardinal Sin?” she asked. She suggested that the February
29 demonstration would be quite large, with students and activists
coming out in numbers not seen before in the recent round of
demonstrations.

HEEDING PUBLIC CONCERN
———————-

¶6. (C) Separately, in meetings with senior government and military
officials, the Ambassador has underscored the need for government
officials at all levels to address public concerns about good
governance. In a February 21 meeting, the Ambassador communicated
these concerns directly to President Arroyo, suggesting that rather
than simply rebutting charges from critics with additional media
attacks, that the public would value a clear sign that the President
was heeding public concerns. President Arroyo was receptive to the
message and acknowledged that she would have to take a more active
role. Similarly, the Ambassador conveyed the same message to Foreign
Secretary Alberto Romulo and National Security Advisor Bert Gonzales,

SIPDIS
both of whom acknowledged the importance of action while voicing
concerns about the difficulty in fighting public perceptions.

MILITARY LEADERS RECEPTIVE TO MESSAGE
————————————-

¶7. (C) Mission representatives also have met with top ranking military
officials. In a conversation with Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces
of the Philippines General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., the Ambassador
congratulated Esperon on weathering a difficult period when many media
reports had suggested that elements of the military might challenge
political authority. Responding to the Ambassador’s encouragement for
the military to avoid extra-constitutional activities against the
government, Esperon said he was proud of his commanders and the Armed
Forces in general for their commitment to upholding the Philippine
Constitution. Esperon stated he and his commanders were completely
firm in their support of political remedies for political issues. “We
achieved democracy, so let’s allow the system to work,” Esperon said.
In a separate meeting, Philippine Army Commander and future Chief of
Staff General Alexander Yano echoed Esperon’s conviction to support the
constitutional process. Still, Philippine authorities continue to
monitor intelligence reports that small groups of military officers may
try to take advantage of scheduled protests on February 29 to conduct
unauthorized activities against the government.

REACHING OUT TO BUSINESS LEADERS
——————————–

¶8. (C) Embassy econoffs also have also reached out to local business
leaders to emphasize the importance of adhering to constitutional
processes to maintain sustained economic growth. During a lunch with
top Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry officials to discuss
overall trade issues on February 14, the Economic and Foreign
Commercial Service Counselors noted that investors eschew uncertainty
and businesses do best where there is a stable policy environment and a
predictable transfer of political power. During a February 21 lunch
where the Executive Director of the powerful Makati Business Club and
the head of the Philippine-U.S. Business Council called for President
Arroyo to
step down, these Counselors noted the importance of promoting rule of
law in order to improve the investment climate in the Philippines.

¶9. (C) Mission representatives have also engaged local government
officials, delivering the same message. In a February 27 meeting with
several provincial governors active in the pro-Arroyo camp, acting DCM
emphasized the need to show the public that political elites care about
their concerns. The governors agreed, but argued that President Arroyo
still had widespread support, as evidenced by the 100 congressmen who

MANILA 00000517 003 OF 003

recently held a pro-Arroyo rally (ref A) and the projected 50 governors
coming into Manila to show their support for Arroyo on February 29.

DISCORD FOR SOME MEANS PROFIT FOR OTHERS
—————————————-

¶10. (C) In addition to giving media interviews on major Philippine
networks, the Ambassador met individually with key media owners to
emphasize that political stability is key to the economic future of the
Philippines; public protests are a sign of a healthy democracy as long
as they are conducted peacefully and legally; and extra-constitutional
actions by the military or other actors are not a remedy to political
discord. When asked about the U.S. perspective on political events
unfolding in the Philippines, the Ambassador said that the hope of the
United States for Filipinos was that the free expression of their views
“honors the rule of law and remains peaceful and within the bounds of
the Constitution.” None disagreed. Several noted that the current
protests were led by former political figures eager to keep their names
and faces in public. Media figures told the Ambassador privately that
the recent events and public political mudslinging had proven extremely
profitable for broadcast and print media, with the public paying great
attention to the issues.

COMMENT
——-

¶11. (C) While President Arroyo continues to face a steady diet of
corruption allegations from political elites — most undocumented —
her situation still does not appear to have reached a tipping point.
She continues to enjoy support in key sectors of society, including the
leadership of military and police, governors and members of the House
of Representatives. Moreover, the Catholic bishops’ refusal to join
the bandwagon calling for her resignation will likely have a dampening
effect on the public debate in general, and the February 29
demonstration in particular. Nevertheless, as Mission representatives
have emphasized, it behooves her and other high government officials to
heed public concern over the perception of widespread corruption.
Irrespective of the level of public dissatisfaction with the President,
another people power revolution is not the answer. It would further
entrench the perception in the region and around the world that the
Philippines is an ungovernable country, where political change is
regularly brought about through extra-constitutional means and could
imperil the foreign investment that has been so vital to the
Philippines’ recent economic growth.

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: http://www.state.sgov.gov

KENNEY

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.