Oct 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/10/08MANILA2365.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2365
2008-10-20 08:44
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO9271
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2365/01 2940844
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 200844Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2108
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE 0773
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE 0381
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002365

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2018
TAGS: PGOV EAID PINR PREL PHUM KISL RP
SUBJECT: PEACE PROCESS BATTERED BUT NOT BURIED

REF: MANILA 2338 (HIGH COURT RULES AGAINST MILF PEACE
DEAL)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Despite a Supreme Court decision October 14
striking down a centerpiece territorial deal between the
Philippine government and Muslim insurgents, leaders of both
sides continue to insist that they remain committed to
finding a negotiated settlement to the Muslim insurgency.
Beyond that shared conviction, however, the way forward
remains murky, with the government asserting talks will not
begin anew until rogue Muslim insurgent commanders are
neutralized, Mindanao’s security situation has been
stabilized and a still-vague consultation process has been
carried out with concerned parties. For its part, the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front announced it would not launch an
uprising in reaction to the Supreme Court decision but has
signaled to a variety of diplomatic sources that it is
looking to international mediation to solve the impasse — a
move that Philippine officials are wary of. Meanwhile,
fighting in Mindanao has remained at a relatively low
intensity and fears that the Supreme Court decision, at the
end of Ramadan, would spark a resurgence in fighting have
thus far not materialized. Still, the fighting to date has
resulted in tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of
internally displaced persons, creating a significant
humanitarian problem, which the government, supported by U.S.
and EU assistance, seeks to mitigate. The Ambassador, DCM,
and Embassy officials continue to emphasize in frequent
contacts with dozens of key players the need to end the
fighting, and eventually return to negotiations, not just for
the sake of an enduring peace, but to alleviate immediately
the current suffering of internally displaced persons. END
SUMMARY.

SHARP SETBACK FOR PEACE PROCESS …
———————————–

¶2. (C) The strongly worded majority opinion in the Supreme
Court’s 8-7 ruling against the Memorandum of Agreement on
Ancestral Domain was categorical in its rejection of this key
element in the government’s comprehensive plan to create a
self-governing Muslim political entity out of the current
Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The Court was
unsparing in its criticism of the government and its peace
negotiators, castigating them for contravening basic elements
of the constitution, assigning illegal rights to the proposed
entity, and failing to carry out adequate consultations with
national and local political leaders. While the government
had publicly insisted for weeks that it would not take any
further action to implement the agreement, the high court’s
ruling was still a setback, both for the sharp tone of the
rejection as well as the detailed nature of its objections.
This could make it more difficult for the government to
resurrect and repackage key elements of the deal in a later
settlement, such as important proposals for sharing revenues
from natural resources that were to fund development and
operating costs for the new Muslim political entity.

… BUT NO SIGNIFICANT MILF COUNTERPUNCH
—————————————-

¶3. (C) While the Supreme Court’s original August 4 temporary
restraining order against the agreement sparked savage
attacks against villages in North Cotabato and Lanao del
Norte by three unrestrained Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) commanders, the latest ruling did not lead to any
significant upsurge in fighting. The armed forces continued
to report sporadic clashes and said it had prepared
contingency plans to counter any MILF retaliatory attacks,
but as of October 20, those fears had not materialized.
Since October 1, there had been just 15 small-scale armed
encounters between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
and MILF forces in Mindanao. This compares with 128 for the
year to date, most of which occurred between August 4 and
September 1.

¶4. (C) Despite the relative calm, the AFP is using the
opportunity presented by the earlier MILF attacks to continue
offensive maneuvers intended to harass the three rogue MILF
base commands that carried out the earlier attacks and
further degrade their military capabilities, already much
battered by August’s ill-advised pitched battles with the

MANILA 00002365 002 OF 003

armed forces. President Arroyo has stated repeatedly that
her goal is to capture or neutralize the rogue commanders as
a prelude to resuming peace discussions. The rugged terrain
and guerrilla tactics employed by the MILF make that a tall
order, but senior Philippine military officials have made it
clear they are to extend the search for the commanders, using
the opportunity to wear down what are some of the MILF’s most
effective fighting forces and further weaken the insurgents’
appetite for conflict. The armed forces’ efforts have broad
support from politicians and a public outraged over the
brutality of the MILF attacks, and Philippine legislators
have pledged additional funds for the defense budget to cover
the costs engendered by the fighting.

HUMAN COST CONTINUES
——————–

¶5. (U) The lack of significant military conflict has done
little to mitigate the suffering of those already displaced
by the August attacks and unusual monsoon flooding in North
Cotabato. Philippine authorities say they have served some
500,000 displaced persons, with tens or even hundreds of
thousands currently living outside their homes. Assessment
trips to North Cotabato province by international aid
agencies and U.S. government personnel, including Mission’s
USAID members and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
officials, have confirmed food, health, and sanitation
problems faced by the displaced villagers, though the exact
number of affected persons is difficult to quantify because
of inexact counting methods. It is important to note,
however, that while the humanitarian crisis is severe, it is
not widespread, as it afflicts just 4 percent of the
population of Mindanao and 5 percent of its land mass.

USG AND INTERNATIONAL AID
————————-

¶6. (U) Based on these assessments, the USG has provided
almost $400,000 in non-food emergency relief aid (hygiene
kits, plastic mats, mosquito nets, and blankets), water,
sanitation, basic health and emotional recovery/psychosocial
assistance. The USG will also provide through the United
Nations World Food Programme food aid valued at approximately
USD $2 million. The EU has announced Euro 4 million in
emergency grant aid for the current crisis and an additional
Euro 3 million for development assistance in the region.

USG ACTIONS
———–

¶7. (C) The Ambassador, DCM, and many Mission members are
using contacts developed over several years to convey to all
key players the need to end the fighting now, focus on
humanitarian assistance and development, and eventually
return to negotiations. In recent comments to Foreign
Secretary Romulo, Defense Secretary Teodoro, Peace Advisor
Esperon, Executive Secretary Ermita, AFP leadership, and
others, the Ambassador and DCM have acknowledged the positive
efforts of the Philippine armed forces in restoring relative
calm and stability in Central Mindanao. We have underscored
the human and financial cost of continued fighting and voiced
concern that the AFP may not have a concrete end in sight for
their offensive and might push the MILF into a backlash. We
are also stressing to key Muslim leaders from Mindanao that
the MILF must remove its errant commanders from the
battlefield as a first step toward resuming peace
negotiations.

¶8. (C) In a sign that there may be nascent progress on the
consultations, Foreign Secretary Romulo said he hoped an
upcoming report from Catholic and Muslim leaders would start
the discussion process moving forward. Various NGOs have
stated their support for immediately ending hostilities in
Mindanao and resuming the peace process, including the Bishop
Ulama Conference, Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy,
and the Mindanao Peoples Council. Even some local leaders
who had been critical of the peace process seem more
receptive. Zamboanga City Representative Isabelle Climaco
said the high court’s decision should become the
“government’s guide” in resuming talks with the rebel group.

NOT ALL HELP WELCOME
——————–

¶9. (C) However, Philippine officials have been less welcoming

MANILA 00002365 003 OF 003

of efforts on the part of some in the diplomatic and NGO
community with less of a track record and who tend to
overreach. The current stasis in the talks has prompted
numerous outreach efforts by international peace
organizations and diplomatic missions to the MILF. The MILF
has said the rejected agreement has soured its faith in the
Philippine government as a negotiating partner, and has
called for the talks to be “internationalized,” which it has
publicly characterized as possible involvement by the
Organization of Islamic Conference or the UN. Privately, the
MILF leadership has floated ideas of international mediation
with various EU-Asian diplomats. At the same time, several
international experts on the peace processes and on
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) have held
discussions with MILF political leaders on lessons learned
from other peace processes like Northern Ireland and Aceh.
The MILF has sounded out these specialists as well on
potential international intermediaries.

¶10. (C) According to diplomatic contacts, senior Philippine
officials have expressed wary concern about these
developments. European diplomats were called to a meeting
October 15, during which senior Cabinet officials expressed
gratitude for development assistance to Mindanao while at the
same time making it clear that the Philippine government will
ask if and when it seeks diplomatic intervention from the EU.
We also know that the Arroyo administration is not pleased
with Malaysia’s performance in mediating the MILF peace talks
— senior Philippine officials routinely criticize the
Malaysian facilitator for not being evenhanded. The
government is concerned about having too many actors delving
into a complex process that is politically charged, while not
wishing to alienate Malaysia precipitously and perhaps
endanger the ceasefire monitoring effort that Malaysia also
heads.

COMMENT
——-

¶11. (C) What is important now is to wind up the fighting, get
people back in their homes and focus on development. Some
sensitive negotiations are needed to get to that point,
especially on what to do with the errant MILF commanders. We
are closely engaged with key government, civil society, and
MILF-connected officials to help all reset their goals to end
the fighting. While early in the fighting the AFP had great
success against these MILF commands, the costs of continuing
to pursue these commanders, in terms of displaced people and
alienated populations, now outweigh any military benefit. At
the same time, the MILF needs to hear a consistent message
from the international community that they must first figure
out how to remove their errant commanders from the
battlefield before the international community can help a
return to peace talks. Unfortunately, many eager diplomats
and peace experts are fueling hopes that the MILF will be
rescued by an international savior. We are relying on close
contacts built over several years to convey to the MILF the
need to take serious actions. Key domestic NGOs are sending
similar messages. We will continue to focus all players in
the government, MILF, other political leaders in Mindanao and
Manila, and civil society, on the need to return to a
ceasefire, focus on development and eventually resume
negotiations.

KENNEY

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.