Oct 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/02/08MANILA487.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA487
2008-02-26 08:17
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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DE RUEHML #0487/01 0570817
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 260817Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9896
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000487

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2013
TAGS: PGOV PREL RP
SUBJECT: NEW HOUSE SPEAKER LAYS OUT PRIORITIES FOR AMBASSADOR

REF: A. MANILA 455 (AMBASSADOR URGES MILF CHIEF TO
EMBRACE PEACE REJECT TERRORISTS)
¶B. MANILA 316 (HOUSE SPEAKER OUSTED MINDANAO
REPRESENTATIVE TAKES OVER)

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

¶1. (C) Summary: In a cordial introductory meeting February
21 with the Ambassador, new House Speaker Prospero Nograles
made clear his strong interest in a positive and productive
relationship with the Ambassador and the USG on key issues of
concern, including peace in his native Mindanao. The
Ambassador congratulated Nograles on being elected the first
Speaker from Mindanao, and stressed our interest in working
closely both to strengthen U.S.-Philippine bilateral
relations and to deepen the Embassy’s ties with the Congress.
The Ambassador briefed on her recent meeting with MILF
Chairman Murad (ref A) and goals of the Balikatan military
exercise, while Nograles blamed the current anti-Balikatan
rhetoric on a “noisy minority” in Mindanao. The Speaker laid
out progressive plans for reshaping the tarnished image of
the Congress, including a higher-profile role for younger
members and improved voting and legislative drafting
techniques, and asked for advice on setting up a Library of
Congress for the Philippines. He was less specific about his
legislative agenda, but said he would press for automated
voting for future elections. Engaging and energetic, the
Speaker portrayed himself as a plain “cowboy-type” during the
discussion, but he is also clearly a political tactician, as
he described with satisfaction his success in knitting
together a “Mindanao block” of 50 legislators to balance
other regional forces in the House. End summary.

——————-
POLICY, NOT PROCESS?
——————–

¶2. (C) Little more than two weeks into his tenure as Speaker
of the House of Representatives, Prospero “Boy” Nograles
admitted to the Ambassador at an introductory meeting that he
was still getting acclimated to the accelerated pace and
daunting scope of the new duties he assumed Feb. 5 when he
ousted former Speaker Jose De Venecia in a bitter political
showdown sparked by charges of corruption in Malacanang
Palace (ref B). Nograles acknowledged that despite five
previous terms in Congress, he was taken aback by the sheer
volume of administrative tasks shouldered by the Speaker, and
made clear to House administrators he intended to focus much
of his energies on his legislative agenda, and devolve more
managerial duties to his deputy speakers and senior House
staff. He voiced pride that he had overseen the election of
Marilyn Yap as the House’s first female Secretary General, or
chief administrative and personnel officer.

———————————–
SUPPORTING U.S. EFFORTS IN MINDANAO
———————————–

¶3. (C) The Ambassador warmly congratulated Nograles on
assuming leadership of the House, noting that he was the
first Speaker from Mindanao. She stressed the importance
that the United States placed on deepening its strong and
enduring ties with the Philippines, and said that a close
working relationship with the Speaker and the Philippine
House of Representatives was a top priority for the Mission.
She described for Nograles her Feb. 19 visit with Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ebrahim, saying
that she had urged the MILF to seek more rapid progress
toward peace, end support for terrorists, and make a clear
commitment to stability and prosperity in Mindanao (ref A).
She also explained for Nograles the Mission’s efforts to
allay concerns in Mindanao about the annual Balikatan
exercises, stressing that only humanitarian activities would
take place in Mindanao. Nograles acknowledged the
Ambassador’s comments, saying that “just a noisy minority”
was responsible for the opposition to Balikatan, when in fact
most people in Mindanao “love the U.S.”

—————-
SHAPING A LEGACY
—————-

¶4. (C) Despite his assertion that legislation was his prime
concern, Nograles returned repeatedly to the theme of
improving the House’s performance and sagging public image.
Noting that House members are limited to three terms in
office, the Speaker said he categorized the House into three
classes — first-term, second-term and third-term members —
and that he intended to allot special tasks to each class.

MANILA 00000487 002 OF 002

To project a more dynamic and reform-minded image of the
Congress, the Speaker said he intended to have the press
office push first-term members to the fore in dealing with
the media. Clearly focused on a legacy project for his term
as Speaker, Nograles said he would designate the third-term
members under Rep. Teodoro Locsin to create a Library of
Congress for the Philippines. The new library would be a
resource for the House, for the Philippine public and
students, particularly for those studying law as Nograles
himself had. The Speaker welcomed the Ambassador’s offer to
have the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section and Thomas
Jefferson Information Center provide background and contacts
for the U.S. Library of Congress.

¶5. (C) The Speaker was less clear on his legislative
priorities for the House, though he did highlight his
intention to make it easier for members — especially more
junior ones — to submit legislative proposals. Saying that
the proper drafting and research of bills was difficult and
time-consuming, Nograles said he had told members to simply
give him a two-page concept paper on an issue and their
proposed legislative remedy, and he would have the House
clerk research the issue, ensure it was not already covered
by current legislation, and draft the bill. This would both
ensure better legislation and make members more effective,
Nograles asserted. The only personal legislative agenda item
the Speaker did cite was his intention to introduce automated
voting for the presidential election in 2010.

———————————
MAKING MINDANAO A POLITICAL FORCE
———————————

¶6. (C) If he was less than effusive about his legislative
agenda, the first Speaker to hail from Mindanao spoke with
clear pride at having knit together a “Mindanao Block” of
legislators who had agreed to vote together on issues of
importance. According to Nograles, he could count on the
support of 50 of the 52 legislators from Mindanao on any
given issue. This would not only give Mindanao greater
weight in influencing the allocation of government resources,
it would also put the country’s poorest area more on a par
politically with the other two major regions, Luzon and the
Visayas, both of which already had their own political blocks
in the House. (The Mindanao Congressional delegation
consists of 11 Muslim and 41 Christian legislators, roughly
mirroring the religious composition of Mindanao, which is 20
percent Muslim and 80 percent Christian. Nograles is a
Christian.)

——–
COMMENT:
——–

¶7. (C) Outgoing and engaging, Speaker Nograles portrayed
himself as a straight-shooting “cowboy-type,” a persona
somewhat at odds with his wealthy roots in Davao and his
scholastic achievements as a top-ranking law graduate in
¶1971. His focus on a more open, reformist and dynamic House
was also a bit incongruous given his companions at the
meeting, Foreign Affairs Committee chair Antonio Cuenco of
Cebu and Dangerous Drugs Committee head Roque Ablan two of
the longest-serving and most entrenched House members.
Still, his commitment to a strong relationship with the USG
and the Mission seems quite genuine, and in keeping with his
positive stance on U.S.-Philippine ties over the years.
Nograles’ first visit to the U.S. since becoming Speaker will
be for pleasure, not business, however, as he intends to fly
to Las Vegas for the March 15 boxing rematch between Manny
Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. “I hate to fly, but I
never miss one of Manny’s fights,” the Speaker confided.

KENNEY

   

 

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