Sep 152014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/05/09MANILA1063.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1063
2009-05-18 08:34
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6624
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1063/01 1380834
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 180834Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4145
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0310
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2271
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001063

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2019
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PTER PINR KISL RP
SUBJECT: MINDANAO VIOLENCE RISING

REF: A. MANILA 985:ICRC HOSTAGE
¶B. MANILA 192:JOINT PHILIPPINE OPERATION NABS
TERRORIST

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Larry Memmott, reasons 1.4 (b),(d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The progress the Philippine military has
achieved against insurgents and terrorists in Mindanao (ref
B) and the Sulu Archipelago has slowed significantly in the
last four months, and kidnappings and high-profile attacks
have been on the rise. A Philippine hostage abducted April
25 by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists on Basilan Island was
beheaded over the weekend. Meanwhile, International
Committee of the Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni passed the
four-month mark as an ASG hostage. The ASG is also suspected
of carrying out assassination attempts against the Sulu
governor May 13 and a Philippine police senior official May
¶7. Despite these setbacks, the Philippine military continues
to chart successes in its efforts to secure Mindanao,
including the May 17 surrender of 57 Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF) fighters. The increased violence coincides with
a stalemate in the peace process between the Philippine
government and the MILF. Major changes in Philippine armed
forces leadership may also have disrupted the military’s
rhythm against terrorist and insurgent groups in Mindanao.
END SUMMARY.

——————–
HIGH PROFILE ATTACKS
——————–

¶2. (C) The consistent progress the Philippine military was
having against insurgents and terrorists in Mindanao and the
Sulu Archipelago (ref B) has slowed in the last four months
and kidnappings and high-profile attacks have been on the
rise. The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has been behind
much of the violence, abducting Filipinos and foreigners, and
conducting assaults on both elected and security officials.
Philippine police reported May 18 that the severed head of
Filipino hostage Doroteo Gonzales, abducted by the ASG on
April 25, was delivered to their offices in Lamitan, Basilan
after his family reportedly was unable to raise a ransom.
Philippine officials speculate the brutal act may have been
meant as a message to the families of other kidnap victims to
pay their ransoms or have their family members suffer similar
fates. Meanwhile, Philippine officials have been frustrated
in their attempts to secure the release of Italian Eugenio
Vagni, the remaining International Committee for the Red
Cross worker who has been held hostage by the ASG since
January 15 on Jolo Island (ref A). Sources report that
Vagni’s health continues to deteriorate even as Philippine
troops continue their search for him.

¶3. (C) Elected officials, along with police and military,
have also been targeted in the recent attacks. Both the ASG
and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Special Operations
Group (MILF-SOG) are suspected to be involved in various
attacks, although there is no information to suggest a
coordinated approach to the incidents, which have occurred in
Central Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The MILF-SOG,
under Abdul Basit Usman, ambushed an AFP brigade commander’s
convoy in early May and then attempted to assassinate former
Maguindanao Provincial Governor and power broker Andal
Ampatuan May 15 using improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Separately, the ASG, led by Albader Parad and others,
ambushed and killed a Philippine National Police senior
superintendent and three others May 7 and then attacked the
convoy of Sulu Governor Abdelsakur Tan May 13 with multiple
IEDs. Combined Philippine operations in the past have
disrupted efforts by the ASG and MILF-SOG to link forces (ref
B), and at this time the attacks appear unrelated.

——————-
UNCERTAINTY IN AFP?
——————-

¶4. (C) Personnel changes in the Armed Forces of the
Philippines may have contributed to a deceleration in the
AFP’s momentum against the ASG and rogue MILF Forces. In
April, AFP Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano resigned a
month early and was named Ambassador to Brunei. His
successor, Lieutenant General Victor Ibrado, is widely
expected to hold the position only until next May, when a
strong supporter of President Arroyo, LTG Delfin Bangit,

MANILA 00001063 002 OF 002

would take over the military’s top spot. Bangit replaced
Ibrado as commander of the Philippine Army earlier this
month. In the southern Philippines, Western Mindanao
Commander Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga has announced he
will retire from the military and pursue a career in
politics, while the AFP commander on Jolo, Major General
Juancho Sabban is in line to be the next Commandant of the
Philippine Marine Corps. The personnel picture is further
clouded by the anticipated official announcement from
Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro that he will
run in the 2010 presidential elections, a decision that will
require him to resign immediately. Nonetheless, the AFP has
continued its pressure on rogue MILF commanders in Mindanao
with success, as evidenced by the surrender of 57 MILF
fighters and their weapons on May 17.

—————————–
PEACE PROCESS AT A STANDSTILL
—————————–

¶5. (C) Compounding the bureaucratic uncertainty in the
Armed Forces and Department of National Defense is the
apparent inability of the Philippine government and MILF to
re-engage in peace talks, which have been frozen since a
Philippine Supreme Court ruling in August 2008 invalidated a
memorandum of agreement between the government and MILF on
ancestral domain. Both sides publicly have stated their
commitment to pursue a workable solution, but there has been
little, if any, movement on the subject over the last eight
months.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶6. (C) The recent high-profile attacks in the southern
Philippines suggest the ASG and MILF-SOG have been emboldened
by their kidnapping successes. Despite releasing two of the
Red Cross hostages under earlier government pressure, the ASG
continues to hold Vagni, the only one of the Red Cross
hostages who exhibited health problems, perhaps in hope of
receiving a ransom payment. With the commanders at Western
Mindanao Command and on Jolo Island planning for their
immediate futures, it appears that the ASG and MILF-SOG are
seizing the opportunity to roil the already turbulent waters.
The AFP needs to demonstrate a firm, measured approach — as
they have done in the past two years — to shore up the
hard-won gains they have made against the ASG and other
lawless groups in the southern Philippines. At the same
time, demonstrable action by the Arroyo administration to
restart the peace process with the MILF would offer the hope
of broader political stability for Mindanao.
Memmott

   

 

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