Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/07/05MANILA3251.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3251 2005-07-14 08:55 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 003251

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/PMBS, INR/EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/14/2015
TAGS: PGOV PINS SOCI PINR PREL RP
SUBJECT: MUCH DISCUSSION OF POSSIBLE CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE
AS HOUSE MULLS OVER IMPEACHMENT OPTIONS

REF: A. MANILA 3231

¶B. MANILA 3200
¶C. MANILA 3187
¶D. MANILA 3093
¶E. MANILA 3046

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: A group of party leaders from across the
political spectrum (pro-President Arroyo to opposition) met
July 12 and agreed that the Philippine Constitution should be
changed to create a unicameral legislature. No firm work
program was agreed to. Arroyo welcomed further discussions
in this area. House leaders continue to discuss the nature
of an impeachment motion against arroyo and the modalities of
moving it forward for discussion once sessions recommence on
July 25. Archbishop Rosales of Manila told Acting Pol/C July
14 that he believed that the recent Catholic Bishops’
statement had helped calm the political waters, but he noted
that the statement could be re-visited if tensions ramped up.
The discussion of constitutional change (a.k.a., “Charter
Change” or “Cha-Cha”) is a long-standing favorite sport of
Manila’s chattering classes, although there seems to be
growing interest in the notion that movement in this area
potentially could be a constructive way out of the ongoing
controversy. End Summary.

——————————–
A Call for Constitutional Change
——————————–

¶2. (SBU) A group of party leaders from across the political
spectrum (pro-President Arroyo to opposition) met July 12 and
agreed that the Philippine Constitution should be changed to
create a unicameral legislature. The forum was convened by
House Speaker Joseph de Venecia as the second political party
summit meeting in the last few months meant to encourage
reconciliation and cross-party solutions to the country’s
problems. Leading representatives from all major national
political parties — LAKAS, KAMPI, Liberal Party,
Nacionalista Party, National People’s Coalition (NPC), Laban
Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), PDP-Laban, and leftist
“party-list” groups led by Bayan Muna — agreed that the
country’s political problems were “systemic” and that the
checks and balances built into the current form of government
“simply do not work.” In their joint statement, the group
endorsed the notion of revising the form of government from
“the presidential to the parliamentary federal system.” The
group also endorsed a “complete overhaul of the Commission on
Elections” in order to reestablish credibility and integrity
in the electoral system. No firm work program was agreed to.
Speaker De Venecia promised that Congress would address the
issue immediately when it reopens sessions on July 25.

¶3. (U) President Arroyo publicly welcomed the joint
statement. She said she supported constitutional changes and
would move the matter forward as a high priority item. The
President said she was grateful to De Venecia for bringing
the parties together. Arroyo claimed the joint statement
would help her “listen closely to the pulse of the people”
and decide how “to consolidate support among both allies and
opponents of her administration in order to know what is good
and right for the Filipino people.”

¶4. (C) The discussion on constitutional change comes amid
growing interest in the topic. On July 7, former president
Fidel Ramos publicly called for constitutional modifications
by early next year to eliminate the executive presidency
followed by May 2006 elections to elect a new parliament. He
repeated this plan in a meeting with Charge. De Venecia has
long supported a shift to a unicameral parliamentary
legislative form of government, noting to Charge in a July 6
lunch meeting that President Arroyo had already agreed to
underscore the need for constitutional change in her annual
State of the Nation address (SONA) scheduled for July 25 (ref
D).

————————————
House Mulls Over Impeachment Options
————————————

¶5. (U) House leaders continue to discuss the nature of an
impeachment motion and the modalities of moving it forward
for discussion once sessions recommence on July 25. After
the July 8 call for Arroyo to resign by most members of the
Liberal Party — formerly a key member of Arroyo’s
congressional coalition — opposition lawmakers said they
would redouble efforts to strengthen the complaint before it
is formally submitted to the House Committee on Justice (ref
E). Opposition Representative Ronaldo Zamora declared in an
interview July 12 that he was consulting with Attorney Oliver
Lozano, who filed the original complaint, and that the
opposition would “work out all the requirements of a
substantial impeachment complaint” that would improve the
motion’s chances of gaining support in the lower house.
Observers have suggested that anywhere from 50 to 75 House
members now support the move to impeach Arroyo, still shy of
the 79 members necessary to refer the motion successfully to
the Senate (where two-thirds support is needed to convict on
impeachment grounds). Several pro-opposition representatives
have told us recently that they believed the opposition now
was inching closer to the requisite support needed to make a
referral to the Senate.

¶6. (U) In the meantime, a House joint hearing into the taped
conversations of possible 2004 electoral fraud continued,
although subpoenas to several key witnesses went unanswered.
Senate hearings also continued into allegations that some
members of the President’s family were involved in “jueteng”
(illegal gambling) profiteering. Opposition members have
also told us that Catholic Archbishop Oscar Cruz, an
anti-jueteng crusader, had more witnesses who would appear
and testify against Arroyo.

————————
“We are not Politicians”
————————

¶7. (C) In a July 14 meeting with Acting Pol/C, Archbishop
Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, an influential Catholic prelate,
said he believed that the Catholic Bishops’ statement issued
on July 10 had helped calm the political waters (ref C).
While bishops had debated long and hard about the precise
wording of the statement, he commented that there had never
been much doubt that they would decline to demand that
President Arroyo resign from office: “We are not
politicians,” he said. Rosales noted that the bishops had
not absolved Arroyo and that she must be accountable for her
actions. On the other hand, the opposition’s program of
rallies was “disruptive to a country that is already poor.”
He pointedly noted that the July 10 statement could be
re-visited if political tensions ramped up further. Rosales
denied reports that he and former president Corazon Aquino
had worked together in recent weeks in an effort to convince
Arroyo to leave office. Rosales said he was close to Aquino,
but did not support her stance that Arroyo must resign.
Acting Pol/C reviewed key USG points, stressing that we
supported the rule of law, and strongly opposed any
extra-constitutional or extra-legal steps. Rosales remarked
that he supported these points, too, and strongly appreciated
the USG’s role during the ongoing controversy, observing that
Charge’s public statements had had a “calming effect” and
were “very constructive.”

——-
Comment
——-

¶8. (C) The discussion of constitutional change (a.k.a.,
“Charter Change” or “Cha-Cha”) is a long-standing favorite
sport of Manila’s chattering classes, which has never gone
anywhere. There seems to be growing interest in the notion
that movement in this area potentially could be a
constructive way out of the ongoing controversy. Arroyo —
who has previously paid lip service to the matter — appears
to be latching on to proposals in this area. (Note: In a
July 12 meeting, Arroyo told Charge that she would support
constitutional change even if it meant shortening her term —
see ref A. End Note.) In large part, Arroyo is being forced
to reconsider options in this area due to her political
vulnerabilities — at this point, she is in no position to
ignore key allies Ramos and De Venecia, and their calls for
such change. Re impeachment, most observers believe that
this matter will take time to work through the House and, if
there is the requisite support there, move on to the Senate.
As noted, the opposition appears confident that it is gaining
support for impeaching Arroyo.

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/

MUSSOMELI

   

 

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