Oct 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2007-07-08 23:44
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #2287/01 1892344
O 082344Z JUL 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002287



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2017


Classified By: DCM Paul Jones, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: A recent series of meetings in Manila and
Mindanao with leaders of the government negotiating team,
MILF and MNLF insurgents and the powerful Ampatuan clan
confirmed the peace process is on track, but that the
government faces a politically difficult compromise on
territory. Malaysia and the OIC appear to be working to
unite MILF and MNLF insurgents in support of a coordinated
peace, but there is much work ahead on that front. After
President Arroyo assured the Ambassador of her support for
concluding an agreement with the MILF this year, Embassy has
stepped up public and private messages that now is the time
for final compromise for peace. We are also calling on all
of Mindanao’s diverse communities, including Christian,
native Lumad and Muslim, to come together to define
Mindanao’s future self-government within the Philippines.
End Summary

Government Negotiator Resigns, Malaysian Facilitator Visits
——————————————— ————–

¶2. (C) The Government’s chief MILF negotiator Secretary
Afable told DCM June 19 that his recent resignation would not
impact negatively on the peace negotiations with the NILF,
nor on the overall peace process in Mindanao. The MILF
negotiations are largely complete, he claimed, and now it is
up to the President’s cabinet to support the needed
compromise on territory. The President’s “heart is in the
right place” on the peace process, Afable continued, but some
members of her cabinet are reluctant to compromise with the
MILF, preferring to deal with the MNLF, which signed an
agreement in 1996, and the politically powerful Ampatuan
clan. He believed the President would agree to the
compromise on territory before her State of the Nation
Address July 23, and predicted a cabinet reshuffle to sell
the deal and to engage more effectively with the Senate and
the Supreme Court in the wake of mid-term elections. Afable
indicated that he was tired of arguing with nay-sayers in the
cabinet, and hoped that his departure would help force a
decision. He also believed it essential that the cabinet
commit to sell a deal politically, instead of leaving that
job to the negotiator (him). The President gave him the
opportunity to explain his views fully before he resigned,
and he expected to continue to serve as an informal advisor.
He told the President he accepted a position with Senator and
presidential hopeful Mar Roxas, whom Afable has known for
many years. Afable believed General (ret.) Rodolfo Garcia,
who was later named to succeed him as chief negotiator, would
do an excellent job, and that the rest of the peace
negotiating team would stay intact.

¶3. (C) Malaysia was increasing the pressure to conclude the
MILF agreement, Afable said. Malaysian negotiator Othman
delivered a very strong message from Prime Minister Badawi
over lunch with President Arroyo in Manila June 18. Othman
also met, separately, with MILF Chairman Murad and MNLF
Chairman Misuari, as part of Malaysia’s efforts to help unify
Muslim insurgencies for peace. Afable believed MILF Chairman
Murad was under great pressure from factions within the MILF.
The most difficult concession for the government was
including in the new Muslim political entity the province of
Sultan Kudarat, with its seven Christian municipalities
comprising some 200,000 people. Asked how the politically
powerful Ampatuan clan would be integrated into the peace
process, Afable said the government had sufficient leverage
to force their cooperation. Yet the government’s reliance on
the Ampatuan clan to produce votes in the just concluded
midterm elections complicated the issue, Afable added.

MILF Vice Chairman

¶4. (C) In DCM’s fourth meeting at the MILF’s central
Mindanao camp, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali
Jafaar welcomed more explicit statements of U.S. support for
concluding a peace agreement this year, which he believed
could help bring on board political players in Manila and
Mindanao. He questioned the seriousness of the national
government and certain cabinet members on territorial
compromises. DCM said there would always be pluralism in
Manila, but he believed President Arroyo was committed to the
peace agreement. (Comment: Jafaar later briefed to a
reporter DCM’s comment on President Arroyo’s commitment,
which became a helpful news item in Manila newspapers.) MILF
Central Committee Foreign Affairs Chair Ustadhz Duli Gayak
and Secretariat Chair Muhammed Ameen, as well as Emboff, also
participated in the meeting.

MANILA 00002287 002 OF 003

¶5. (C) Jafaar gave an upbeat assessment of the MILF’s
coordination with other Muslim communities. He claimed MILF
Foreign Affairs Chair Duli had met (unclear when) with MNLF
Chairman Misuari’s close aides, MNLF Secretary General and
Cotabato Mayor Sema and the Ampatuan clan leadership. On
closer questioning, however, the MILF relationships with
these individuals was clearly not close. Duli attended the
OIC Ministerial in Islamabad in May and expected also to
represent the MILF at the Tripartite Meeting of the
MNLF-Philippine Government-OIC in Jeddah in July. (Comment:
The OIC has traditionally recognized the MNLF as the sole
representative of Muslims in the Philippines. Its Islamabad
resolution, however, called for “the MNLF and MILF and all
other national components to unify their ranks…for peace
and development, and requests the Secretary General to
contribute further good offices for the achievement of
rapprochement and coordination between them.”)

¶6. (C) On post-peace agreement governance, Jafaar said the
MILF planned to select representatives from all Mindanao
communities — Christians, MNLF, Ampatuans, Lumads, MILF —
to serve on a two or three year transition council to develop
Mindanao’s governance under Manila’s offer of “self
determination”. The style of governance would be more
Islamic, yet tolerant. Jafaar claimed that commands that
have resisted Central Committee leadership, such as Commander
Kato’s 105th, would support the peace agreement. Asked how
to prevent continuing fighting between the Ampatuan clan and
MILF elements after a peace agreement, Jafaar said the MILF
will disarm the Ampatuans. He admitted that this had not
been discussed with the Ampatuans, but was confident the MILF
had the power to do it.

MNLF Secretary General and Cotabato Mayor Sema
——————————————— –

¶7. (C) Mayor Sema described disunity within the MNLF in a
one-on-one dinner with DCM June 20, and was less optimistic
on MILF-MNLF cooperation. He blamed MNLF Chairman Nur
Misuari, currently under house arrest in Manila, for the
MNLF’s disunity. Sema recalled how Misuari had rejected an
offer by MNLF founders to reunify under Misuari’s leadership
in July 2005, preferring his new aides who hadn’t fought in
the battles of the ’70’s and ’80s. Sema said he had just met
Misuari two weeks earlier in Manila, and had come away
disappointed. Misuari was now telling activists on Jolo
Island and Central Mindanao to organize, train and arm
themselves, Misuari claimed. He worried that the youth who
heed Misuari’s call could be taken advantage of by
“foreigners” (read, terrorists), as had long ago happened
with the Abu Saayaf, according to Sema.

¶8. (C) Sema agreed that now is the right time for all of
Mindanao’s communities to come together in support of peace,
and maintained that the MNLF’s 1996 agreement was the best
basis for doing do. Sema pointed out that the 1996 agreement
held out the prospect (never implemented) for 13 provinces of
Mindanao and Palawan to become part of an autonomous region,
whereas the MILF was “only” seeking certain territorial
additions to the present Autonomous Region in Muslim
Mindanao. (Comment: MILF’s Jafaar told DCM that the 1996
agreement was totally discredited since it had not improved
the lives of Mindanaons; whether that is the result of poor
implementation or a poor agreement is irrelevant, Jafaar
said.) Regarding MILF-led governance after a peace
agreement, Sema said Mindanao’s Muslims are not ready for
Islamic government. Many of their traditions do not reflect
true Islamic practices, having been mixed with local
traditions, and Sema indicated the MILF would find that much
Islamic education was needed.

ARMM Governor Ampatuan

¶9. (C) In a June 27 meeting at the Manila offices of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, ARMM Governor Zaldy
Ampatuan professed support for the peace process, but
regretted that the ARMM (read, Ampatuans) had no role in the
Government-MILF negotiations. Ampatuan recalled that he had
complained to the OIC in 2005 about being left out of the
MILF negotiations, and pointedly made no mention of Malaysia,
the facilitator of MILF-government talks. Ampatuan indicated
he was more disposed to work with, and had better contacts
with, the MNLF. (Comment: Newly-elected Congressman from
Sulu Jakiri, describing himself as MNLF Chief of Staff, told
DCM separately that the Ampatuan clan had provided financial
and political support to his candidacy.) The rest of the
session with Governor Ampatuan and his staff focused on the
ARMM’s desire for more international development assistance.

MANILA 00002287 003 OF 003


¶10. (C) Given the President’s assurances to the Ambassador
that she wants to conclude an agreement (reftel), we are
pressing publicly and privately that now is the time.
Political considerations arising from the excruciatingly slow
vote counting in the mid-term elections, especially in
Mindanao, have likely delayed the government’s
decision-making on territorial compromises. If an agreement
on territory is concluded, it will become even more important
to bring together all of Mindanao’s communities to begin to
define Mindanao’s future governance. We are actively
engaging a range of stakeholders to promote cooperation among
Mindanao’s many diverse communities.



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