Oct 252014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/06/08MANILA1432.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1432
2008-06-13 09:15
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001432

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2018
TAGS: MARR MAS MCAP PREL RP
SUBJECT: MILITARY CHIEF YANO DISCUSSES KEY CHALLENGES WITH AMBASSADOR

REF: A. MANILA 1402: COUNTER TERRORISM AND THE PEACE
PROCESS IN THE PHILIPPINES
¶B. MANILA 1399: TOP BROADCAST JOURNALIST ABDUCTED
IN MINDANAO
¶C. MANILA 1192: FORMER MILITARY CHIEF TO HEAD PEACE
PROCESS
¶D. MANILA 1177: PACOM COMMANDER AND AMBASSADOR CALL
ON NEW ARMED FORCES CHIEF

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: During a June 11 private breakfast with the
Ambassador, Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff General
Alexander Yano cited as major challenges over the next three
months the stalled peace process with Muslim insurgents, a
recent increase in violence and bombings, upcoming elections
in Muslim Mindanao, the recent kidnapping of a popular
television journalist by the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the
upcoming typhoon season. In an echo of his strong emphasis
on ethics and personal responsibility, Yano discussed his
recent meeting with some of the soldiers who remain in
custody after being convicted for their participation in the
plot to overthrow the government of President Arroyo in July
2003, telling them they must “face the consequences” of their
actions. Yano also offered that the New People’s Army was
becoming more criminal than ideological in nature, as
indicated by their recent actions against commercial
establishments in Mindanao. Yano also reaffirmed his
commitment to hunting down terrorists and other high-value
individuals. END SUMMARY.

——————
CURRENT CHALLENGES
——————

¶2. (C) In a June 11 private breakfast with the Ambassador,
newly appointed Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff
Alexander Yano (ref d) cited issues that he considered among
his top immediate challenges. Yano was concerned about the
pullout of the Malaysian contingent from the International
Monitoring Team and its impact on the stalled peace process
with Muslim insurgents. Yano, the first native of Mindanao
to serve in this position, expressed his desire for a lasting
peace agreement. He spoke positively of his previous
experience as chairman of the Coordinating Committee on the
Cessation of Hostilities, the panel overseeing the ceasefire
with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He said he
considered the ceasefire committee an effective body, and
noted that it enabled him to get to know many of the key MILF
leaders, many of whom he considered sensible and committed to
achieving a lasting peace. Yano added that he and his
predecessor, General Esperon, who now serves as the
Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process (ref c), are
strongly committed to the peace process and understand the
need for continuing progress. But the situation would become
increasingly difficult if the lack of progress in peace talks
continued, especially given the rogue MILF and terrorist
elements who were outside of the MILF leadership’s control.
Yano found himself in the position of “hoping for the best,
but preparing for the worst” in dealing with the security
situation in Mindanao. Given that the peace process is
central to the U.S. strategy to separate a few dozen
significant terrorists from 12,000 insurgents in southern
Philippines (ref a), the Ambassador reiterated to General
Yano the USG’s strong interest in and support for a
negotiated settlement.

¶3. (C) General Yano also voiced concerned about the recent
kidnapping of well-known ABS-CBN television journalist Ces
Drilon and her camera crew by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) (ref
b). Yano expressed concern about Drilon’s fate and said the
AFP was actively involved in efforts to resolve this incident
peacefully, but also voiced frustration about journalists
traveling in a dangerous, isolated area of Mindanao against
the advice of military and law enforcement officials. While
he understood that journalists had a right to track stories
wherever they might lead, now he and the military would have
to spend considerable time and resources in trying to solve
the problem.

¶4. (C) General Yano spoke of his recent visit with some of
the soldiers who remain in custody after being convicted for
their participation in the plot to overthrow the government
of President Arroyo in July 2003. According to Yano, the

MANILA 00001432 002 OF 002

soldiers emphasized that they meant no disrespect to the
military and that they truly “loved” the Army. In keeping
with his strong emphasis on ethics and respect for civilian
authority on the part of the military, General Yano told the
Ambassador that on the advice of his lawyer he did not
discuss any possible plea agreement with the soldiers and
stressed to them that they must “face the consequences” of
their actions.

———————————-
NEW POSITION, NEW RESPONSIBILITIES
———————————-

¶5. (C) General Yano reaffirmed his commitment to hunting down
high value targets using targeted military operations coupled
with civil-military activities and agreed with the Ambassador
this combination of “hard” and “soft” power was instrumental
in the on-going success against terrorist elements in
Mindanao. Yano added that gaining and maintaining the good
will of the local populace in these regions, which were once
considered safe havens for terrorists, is the most productive
method of mitigating support for terrorism. General Yano
also informed the Ambassador that he will soon accompany
President Arroyo on a three-day trip to eastern Mindanao to
assess recent activities attributed to the communist New
People’s Army (NPA) in that region. In an aside, Yano noted
that while he has a strong relationship with Secretary of
National Defense Teodoro, he has no track record with
President Arroyo and this upcoming trip would be an important
opportunity. General Yano and the Ambassador concurred that
recent alleged NPA activity in Mindanao indicate that the NPA
is becoming more of a criminal gang using extortion and
kidnapping as a way to generate income, as opposed to an
ideologically driven organization seeking political change.

¶6. (C) In addition to expressing appreciation for his recent
meetings with U.S. counterpart Admiral Mullen and PACOM
Commander Admiral Keating shortly after assuming his new
position (ref d), General Yano thanked the Ambassador for the
ongoing visit of the USNS MERCY and its successful
humanitarian missions in Samar, a region which he said has
unfortunately been neglected in the past. The Ambassador
thanked him for his support of the USNS MERCY visit and
informed him that a recent helicopter shooting incident,
which is still being investigated, did not have any
significant impact on USNS MERCY’s humanitarian activities.

¶7. (C) During the breakfast, General Yano reaffirmed his
previous public comments that he would ensure Philippine
military personnel adhere to a strict code of conduct, with
no tolerance for favoritism. He explained that he would be
traveling more throughout the Philippines in the near future
to meet with his commanders in the field. Despite knowing
some of them as classmates at the Philippine Military Academy
and many of them throughout his Army career, General Yano
commented that, in his new position, he would have to treat
his former colleagues “differently.” He emphasized that his
younger brother Cesar, a Colonel in the Philippine Army, can
expect “no special favors or treatment” from him.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) General Yano, the eldest son of two public school
teachers, is a firm believer in public service and has
consistently professed an allegiance to the rule of law since
his appointment as Armed Forces Chief of Staff. Instilled
with a strict sense of discipline from his parents at an
early age, General Yano appears willing to take on what some
see as pervasive graft and corruption in the military. Thus
far, his private comments have matched his public statements
regarding respect for human rights and maintaining integrity
in the Armed Forces.
KENNEY

   

 

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