Oct 032014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/12/06MANILA5039.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA5039 2006-12-20 07:35 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO9587
OO RUEHNH
DE RUEHML #5039/01 3540735
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 200735Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4328
INFO RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA IMMEDIATE 0068
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005039

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/20/2016
TAGS: PREL MARR CASC RP
SUBJECT: MARINE CASE: LIKELY CANCELLATION OF BALIKATAN

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

¶1. (C) In a private meeting with Executive Secretary Ermita
on December 20, Ambassador reviewed the near-certainty that
the USG would imminently decide to cancel much or perhaps all
of Balikatan 07 to reflect our concern about the Philippines’
lack of compliance with the terms of the Visiting Forces
Agreement in light of the continued detention in a Philippine
jail of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith. She noted that other
military activities, including ship visits, might also be
subject to cancellation. Ermita expressed regret and said
that he shared the U.S. frustration that the Philippine court
did not respect the clear language of the VFA or the
submissions from the U.S. Embassy and Philippine Departments
of Justice and Foreign Affairs expressing agreement that
custody should remain with U.S. authorities until the end of
all judicial procedures. He said that the Cabinet would meet
to discuss this issue again later on December 20.

¶2. (C) Separately, Ambassador also briefed Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Esperon on the
likely cancellation of Balikatan 07 activities. Both Esperon
and Ermita expressed concerns that the Philippine public
could construe such a cancellation as a U.S. lack of
confidence in the AFP. Ermita pointed out that the AFP
(correctly) had no role in dealing with the Philippine
judiciary on the Smith case and should not be penalized.

¶3. (C) Embassy does not plan to issue a press announcement
on the cancellation, and recommends that Washington/PACOM
also not issue a formal announcement. Our goal is to
minimize the damage to the mil/mil relationship and to
position ourselves quickly to resume our robust programs once
the Philippine government and courts are able successfully to
resolve the current issue over custody under the VFA. We
know that the Philippine government, up to and including
President Arroyo, as well as the entire AFP leadership, are
united in backing the VFA and in wishing our bilateral
military exercise and other activities to continue under the
VFA as soon as possible. We believe that highlighting the
cancellation would likely create unnecessary domestic
political headaches for our allies in the Philippine
government and AFP, while strengthening the hands of those
who fundamentally oppose the VFA or simply wish to embarrass
the government (in part, perhaps, with an eye on the May 2007
elections).

¶4. (SBU) There will undoubtedly be press interest once the
word of the cancellation seeps out, and Embassy suggests
following “if asked” press guidance:

¶Q. Did the U.S. Government cancel the Balikatan 07 exercise?
If so, why?

¶A. All U.S.-Philippine military exercises and related
activities operate under the Visiting Forces Agreement, which
has advanced the security interests of our two countries well
since 1999 through an active program of exercises, ship
visits, civil-military activities, and humanitarian and
relief operations. With the current custody issue still
working its way through the Philippine judicial system, the
usual protections provided to U.S. service personnel remain
in doubt. Until the Philippine government and courts are
able to ensure that the Philippines is in full compliance
with the VFA, it would be imprudent to bring additional U.S.
troops here for exercises or other related purposes.

¶Q. Will this cancellation affect the activities of U.S.
military already present, such as the Joint Special
Operations Task Force-Philippines in Mindanao?

¶A. The U.S. Government has no plans at present to curtail
ongoing military activities, including JSOTF-P, but we will
continue to review progress in the current custody case as we
make decisions about future U.S. military activities in the
Philippines.

¶Q. Does the cancellation of Balikatan 07 reflect a downward
trend in U.S.-Philippine relations?

¶A. The U.S. Government and Philippine Government are in full
accord about the value of the Visiting Forces Agreement and
our extensive bilateral military cooperation. We are also in
full agreement that U.S. personnel covered by the VFA
involved in legal cases under Philippine jurisdiction should
remain in U.S. custody until the end of all judicial
proceedings, including appeals, under the terms of the VFA.
Both governments hope and expect the Philippine courts to
uphold this clause in the VFA. Our bilateral relationship
overall remains broad and deep.

MANILA 00005039 002 OF 002

¶Q. Does the U.S. Government dispute the verdict in the Smith
case?

¶A. We take no position on the verdict issued by a Philippine
judge in a Philippine court on the legal case against Lance
Corporal Smith under Philippine law. We strongly object,
however, to the clear violation of the Visiting Forces
Agreement reflected in the court’s December 4 order to detain
Lance Corporal Smith in a Philippine jail while Lance
Corporal Smith’s judicial proceedings continue.

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

   

 

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