Oct 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/02/10MANILA405.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10MANILA405
2010-02-26 09:11
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO5078
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0405/01 0570911
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 260911Z FEB 10 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6710
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MANILA 000405

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2020
TAGS: PGOV PTER PINS KISL RP
SUBJECT: MILF LEADERS CONCERNED ABOUT PEACE TALKS, SEEK MORE ENGAGEMENT WITH U.S.

REF: A. MANILA 350 (PEACE TALKS FACILITATOR ON INTERIM
AGREEMENT)
¶B. MANILA 251 (PARTIES SHARE DRAFT PEACE ACCORDS)
¶C. 09 MANILA 2469 (MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE)
¶D. 09 MANILA 2423 (MILF WELCOMES EAP A/S CAMPBELL
LETTER)
¶E. 09 MANILA 2198 (CHARGE DISCUSSES PEACE TERRORISM
WITH MILF)
¶F. 09 MANILA 1575 (INFORMAL PEACE TALKS THIS WEEK)

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Leslie A. Bassett,
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) peace panel told Poloff February 24 they are concerned
about the Philippine government’s ability to negotiate an
interim peace agreement that can satisfy the MILF’s
expectations, and asked to engage with the U.S. on a more
formal basis. MILF Peace Panel Chairperson Mohagher Iqbal
and Member Michael Mastura said the MILF would attend the
March 4 question-and-answer session in Kuala Lumpur sought by
the Philippine government, but they remained sharply
discouraged by the government’s poor leadership and
unconvinced the government had any new ideas to offer.
Recalling the U.S. colonial relationship with Muslims in the
southern Philippines, Mastura said the MILF wanted a
“parallel dialogue” with the U.S. to regularize engagement
with us and increase U.S. participation in the peace process,
although he did not specify how such an arrangement might
work. The MILF members said that the MILF could resort to
violence — or “Balkanize the region” — if forced to, but
the MILF has shown restraint and wanted to continue to avoid
violence. While concerned about the course of negotiations,
the MILF felt the International Contact Group had proven its
usefulness. On upcoming national elections, Mastura said the
MILF had been unable to engage with presidential candidates,
and believed that Senator Aquino was unable to understand the
complexities of the situation. END SUMMARY.

MILF CONCERNED ABOUT GOVERNMENT’S SINCERITY
——————————————-

¶2. (C) Two members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) peace panel told Poloff over dinner February 24 that
the MILF was “very unhappy” and increasingly concerned about
the government’s ability to negotiate an interim peace
agreement because of its poor leadership and “phobic”
unwillingness to acknowledge points from the defunct 2008
territorial agreement. MILF Panel Chairperson Mohagher Iqbal
and Panel Member Michael Mastura, who invited Poloff and
others to dinner at his private residence in Cotabato City,
criticized the leadership of President Arroyo and government
Peace Panel Chairperson Rafael Seguis following the 2008
collapse of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain
(MOA-AD). Mastura called President Arroyo “famous” for her
policy reversals, and assailed her shift away from more
flexible principles espoused by Seguis’ predecessors. Seguis
himself was “deaf,” Mastura commented, adding, “We don’t even
know if he is listening,” since he appeared to be texting on
his phone during negotiations. “We are very unhappy with our
status,” Mastura lamented, while Iqbal added that the
government seemed to be stalling.

¶3. (C) Citing another reason for MILF concern, Mastura
cautioned that the government’s “phobia” of the MOA-AD led to
its omission of key consensus points in its comprehensive
peace proposal (Ref B) — a sign that the government’s
forthcoming interim proposal, anticipated in March, could
fall far short of MILF expectations. “The government cannot
think out-of-the-box,” Mastura said, and its simple proposals
rely too much on existing programs, such as expanding Islamic
banking and education. Noting that the MILF would
participate in a March 4 question-and-answer session with the
Philippine government in Kuala Lumpur, Mastura emphasized
that the MILF ultimately wanted to hear “ideas, not
questions.” They expressed hope that Office of the
Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Assistant
Secretary Bong Montesa, absent from the January talks, would
attend the next meeting to lend his extensive experience to
the government panel.

MILF PROPOSAL WOULD CREATE TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENT
——————————————— ——

MANILA 00000405 002 OF 004

¶4. (C) Apologizing for launching into an informal lecture,
Mastura explained that the MILF’s draft interim agreement
would establish a “transition process” for Moro autonomy that
the MILF and the next Philippine administration would follow.
The draft (Ref A) has three main components: a
six-and-a-half year timeframe, a particular sequence of
actions to be undertaken by each side separately or jointly,
and three distinct periods (pre-interim, interim, and
implementation). (Note: Mastura did not provide the text,
and Poloff did not reveal he had already seen it. End Note.)
Mastura said the nature of the relationship between the
proposed “Bangsamoro” entity and the central government was
unclear, but could be federative, associative, or in another
form. In this context, the “enhanced autonomy” offered by
the government was insufficient. The MILF would not seek
independence, and it eschewed the name “Bangsamoro State” in
favor of “Bangsamoro,” modeled on Kosovo’s naming scheme.
The Asia Foundation (TAF) Director Steven Rood, also at the
dinner, noted that the most challenging aspect of the interim
process would be passing a constitutional amendment
permitting the creation of a Bangsamoro “Basic Law,” as
desired by the MILF.

SEEKING A “PARALLEL DIALOGUE” WITH THE U.S.
——————————————-

¶5. (C) In light of the MILF’s limited confidence in the
Philippine government, Mastura said that the MILF wanted to
regularize our engagement through a “parallel dialogue” with
the U. S. to support the peace process and come up with new
ideas. He did not specify how the dialogue might work, but
noted the dialogue would be known to the Philippine
government and other parties. Mastura was unable to explain,
despite Poloff’s efforts to seek clarification, if “parallel”
meant parallel to the work of the International Contact
Group, or to the GRP-MILF talks.

¶6. (C) Along with their suggestion for a parallel dialogue,
Iqbal and Mastura also made an impassioned plea for greater
overall U.S. involvement. “Listen to how we feel,” Iqbal
implored. “The Filipinos are the rulers,” he continued, “and
we (Moros) are slaves. It is a lopsided relationship.”
Because the U.S. erred in including Mindanao in Philippine
territory when providing the Philippines with its
independence, the U.S. “owed” the Moros its assistance.
Official U.S. letters of support for the peace process
notwithstanding, Mastura said, the U.S. has had no direct
engagement in the substance of peace talks since the
conclusion of the U.S. Institutes for Peace (USIP) programs
several years ago. Poloff reiterated U.S. policy as outlined
in the November 2009 letter from EAP A/S Kurt Campbell to
MILF Chairman Murad. Poloff clarified that, while our USIP
programs had concluded, U.S. engagement on the peace process
had not. In the years prior to the MOA-AD, senior U.S.
officials consistently and privately engaged the most senior
members of the Philippine government to encourage them
forward in peace negotiations.

CAUTION ABOUT MILF BACKLASH
—————————

¶7. (C) Demonstrating the MILF’s dissatisfaction with
negotiations, Mastura described the potential for an MILF
backlash — but also noted how its current posture was
somewhat restrained. “We can still make trouble and
Balkanize the area,” Mastura warned. “Please do not allow us
to do that.” While Mastura said others had urged the MILF to
pursue political assassinations of President Arroyo’s
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and North Cotabato
province Vice Governor Manuel Pinol, the MILF “does not
assassinate,” even if it loathes the influence of these
individuals who “have made a career” out of opposing peace in
Mindanao. (Note: The flow of the conversation did not allow
Poloff to interject and explicitly voice opposition to the
notion of assassinations, but everyone present seemed clearly
to understand the USG would find such acts abhorrent. End
Note.)

¶8. (C) Iqbal said he also had doubts about the Philippine
military’s support for peace, but he and Mastura later agreed
with Rood’s assessment that military opinions toward the MILF
had softened because of the military’s increasing
professionalization as well as its intense focus on fighting
the Communist insurgency, trends that are analyzed in recent

MANILA 00000405 003 OF 004

and upcoming research from The Asia Foundation. While
describing foreign actors of the International Monitoring
Team, Mastura said that the U.S. military was also a player
in Mindanao, and that the Philippine military was “under” the
U.S. military — a perception that Poloff corrected, noting
that U.S. forces were present only at the invitation of the
Philippine government.

MILF SUPPORTS INTERNATIONAL CONTACT GROUP
—————————————–

¶9. (C) Mastura expressed support for the role of the
International Contact Group (ICG) GRP and said it had played
a useful role since its inception in December. The ICG’s
strong reaction to the government’s anemic peace offer in
January, Mastura said, could be taken as a successful example
of the ICG’s influence in the peace process. Rood noted that
the ICG had also “hammered” the Philippine side to take the
MILF comprehensive peace proposal seriously.

MILF THOUGHTS ON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
—————————————-

¶10. (C) Responding to Poloff’s question about MILF
interaction with presidential candidates, Mastura noted that
the MILF had not reached out to any of the candidates to
lobby them on the peace process because none of the
candidates appeared to take the issue seriously. As per
stated MILF policy, the group did not expressly support or
oppose political candidates. However, Mastura recounted one
exchange he had with a member of Senator Benigno “Nonoy”
Aquino’s campaign, who asked if the Senator should have a
policy on the peace process. Unimpressed, Mastura replied,
“It’s too complicated for Senator Aquino to understand.”

TERRORISM
———

¶11. (C) During the discussion of U.S. policy toward the MILF,
Poloff highlighted the point in the letters from both A/S
Campbell and then-A/S Kelly that the MILF needed to sever any
ties to terrorists. Mastura did not respond to Poloff’s
comment. However, earlier in the conversation Mastura
dismissively pointed out that the U.S. seemed to always raise
the issue of terrorism, which he said was not relevant to the
peace process.

COMMENT
——-

¶12. (C) Mastura’s and Iqbal’s forceful statements — the most
heated language we have heard in recent months — demonstrate
that the MILF continues to view itself as the principal
victim in its quest for Moro autonomy, wronged by the U.S.
and history at the moment of Philippine independence, and
struggling to reassert itself ever since in a region that has
become home to increasing numbers of Christian migrants and
that remains dominated by powerful Muslim clans. The MILF
has previously sought U.S. intervention in the peace process,
but was unable to articulate that vision to senior U.S.
officials during several meetings in 2009 when they discussed
the U.S. role (Refs D, E, F ). While likely intended to
increase pressure on the Philippine government, the MILF’s
new idea for a “parallel dialogue” could also be an attempt
to create a counterbalance to the ICG, whose state members
have no historical connection to the Moros and may therefore
be perceived as inclined to side with the Philippine
government. Post aims to explore the MILF’s concept for
“parallel dialogue,” although we believe the timing is not
right to establish any new mechanism.

¶13. (C) Given its popularity among the Moros of central and
western Mindanao, the MILF may increasingly position itself
as an antidote to the mix of money, violence, and clan power
that has saddled development in the region and led to the
November 23 massacre of 57 civilians in Maguindanao province,
which eyewitnesses blame on the Ampatuan clan (Ref C). From
this viewpoint, the autonomy sought by the MILF not only
returns to the Moros their ancestral homeland, but also
enables them to transition away from the region’s broken
political culture. At present, however, we have no basis to
believe that the MILF would prove more capable than its
predecessors of governing well. End Comment.

MANILA 00000405 004 OF 004

ATMOSPHERICS AND BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
———————————–

¶14. (C) Mastura was pleased to invite guests into his large
but not ostentatious Cotabato City home, which he proudly
noted abuts a madrasah that he established many years ago
with funds the Brunei government had allocated for mosque
construction. “We had enough mosques,” Mastura said, so he
told Brunei officials to build a school. The Islamic school,
he noted, teaches all subjects, including English, science,
and math. (Mastura and his wife lamented the declining
number of skilled English speakers in Mindanao.) Burnishing
his liberal credentials, Mastura said that he and his wife
used to drink alcohol but had to give it up when conservative
Muslims criticized them for it. Still, they did not feel out
of place in the MILF: “Our (MILF) ideology is Islamic, but we
are not ideologized.” He continued, “There is a streak of
liberalism in us (the MILF).” Mrs. Mastura, who does not
wear a headscarf, did not participate in the substantive
meeting but was present and opinionated at the casual dinner
discussion. Mastura and Iqbal, fluent in English, both
appeared comfortable with her presence in this setting. The
Masturas said they have hosted many dinners with other
foreigners, including Steve Rood, at their home.

PARTICIPANTS
————

¶15. (SBU) The following people participated in the February
24 dinner and follow-on meeting:

Michael Pignatello, Political Officer, U.S. Embassy Manila
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Peace Panel Chairman
Michael Mastura, MILF Peace Panel Member
Mike Marasigan, MILF Peace Panel Secretariat Member
Steven Rood, The Asia Foundation Country Representative for
the Philippines
Thomas Parks, The Asia Foundation Regional Director for
Conflict and Governance (Bangkok office)
Abhoud Linga, Director, Institute of Bangsamoro Studies

BASSETT

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.